By Ana Laura Araya

Embraced’s story began in a closet. That’s right. The story of an Atlanta-based nonprofit that has helped hundreds individuals become mobile again began in founder Lauren O’Brien’s closet.

O’Brien was injured in a horseback riding accident that had left her on crutches and in a boot brace. When she didn’t need this equipment any longer, O’Brien decided to give it to someone who truly needed it. She began to contact different organizations in Atlanta, but it only took a few days to find out the truth – no one was collecting the equipment.

“I couldn’t find an easy way to donate and I wanted to figure out where all the equipment was going and why no one was collecting it,” O’Brien said. She figured that there had to be other individuals in similar situations, with idle equipment in their closets.

And so, Embraced’s story began. She began speaking with doctors, who gladly placed donation bins in their offices. To her surprise, she began picking up full bins in a matter of weeks and she stored the equipment in her closet. That was in 2009.

Currently, Embraced has grown into an organization that has collected over 2,000 orthopedic pieces and has touched the lives of hundreds of individuals locally and globally. Embraced collects prosthetic limbs and parts, wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches and currently has over 60 donation sites all over Atlanta. The organization has also created partnerships abroad in Latin America and Africa and has ensured that the donations get to the hands of the most people in need.

“We give equipment to people who need to become mobile again, to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen, to get back to work or school. We give them this gift of mobility for free,” said Raul Alvarez, Embraced’s logistics coordinator. “The feeling of gratitude makes it all worth.”

Embraced also has holds an ice cream flavor competition fundraiser with High Road Ice Cream. The winning flavor will be sold for one year and a portion of the proceeds benefits Embraced.

“A lot of people don’t know what to do with their equipment. They might just put it in their closet. Now they have an option of dropping it in a bin. And this might just change someone’s life forever,” O’Brien said.

To learn more about Embraced or find out how to do donate your used equipment, visit embracedatlanta.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.