Archives for category: Gifts-in-kind

Its not as interesting in the shop without the volunteer camaraderie and it has very quiet in the workshop this year, waiting for the right time to re-establish weekly volunteer wheelchair refurbishing opportunities. That time is NOW. Contact me via email using patrick@wheelsofhope.org if you are interested in helping with cleaning, small repairs and lubrication of our backlog of wheelchairs for overseas shipment to those in need in Thailand and Honduras.

Here’s what I’ve been up to until volunteer training begins again:

2021 has been the perfect opportunity to focus my work on the backlog of tilt-in-space (TIS) wheelchairs in need of more intricate and creative repair. These are the chairs that need more than just cleaning, small repairs and lubrication which our regular volunteers addressed. There is a great need for pediatric-sized wheelchairs and the TIS perfectly fill that need. They are designed to accommodate a child’s growth, but they can be made smaller and not as deep seated for the youngest children in need. Most of the chairs we have are 18″ to 20″ wide. But we are able to down-size them to 12″ to be given to the smallest child.

A child’s special wheelchair after TLC

To narrow the width, the five adjustable spacer bars are removed, made shorter and reinstalled. The seating area is made shallower by just moving the back supports forward. Then I modify the rigid seats and backs that are not custom molded and can be made smaller by cutting the plywood base and re-stapling the covering over the edges again.

Getting foot or leg rests (rigging) to use can be interesting. Some of the chairs never had them so creative things need to be done. Making rigging from different types of attachments and manufactures is challenging. Its nice when I just walk around the warehouse and find what will work just sitting on top of one of the other chairs or in some other odd place!

A children’s specialty wheelchair with newly adapted footrests

Last but not least are the wheels, tires and bearings. The tires are not very worn but do suffer from age. Cracks in the rubber treads and sidewalls will only last for so long. If they are really bad, I’ll try and replace them. It seems the wheel bearings pick up rug fibers and hair that gets inside the “sealed” bearing. These get soaked in cleaner and freed up and greased and re-installed. If they can’t be reworked, then they are replaced with good used ones.

Once the chair is reassembled and checked that it reclines and operates correctly, it is made as compact as possible for shipping and stretch wrapped. Lifting the chair on to and off the bench is difficult. These chairs can weigh as much as seventy pounds completed. So I have made a way to get them on and off with out injuring my back.

The back-saving lift I use to move the 70+ pound pediatric wheelchair
Stretch-wrapped children’s specialty wheelchairs staged for shipping

This is how I have been using my talent and this season of working solo, on loan from God. I am grateful for His giving me the abilities to work with Him to provide mobility to the least of the least.

There is a good inventory of regular wheelchairs just waiting to be reconditioned, but we need new young and healthy volunteers for that. (Our former group of retirees had served for over a decade and are well into their 80s, many with health issues of their own which the pandemic has only intensified.) Many of these chairs were used commercially and damaged. They need dismantled for usable parts and the rest of the chair prepared to be recycled for the steel. This would make a great home school or youth group project.

We continue our prayers for getting this vital ministry opportunity into the hearts and hands of younger people, new volunteers, new board members and leadership.

Wheels of Hope is dedicated to keeping wheelchairs, medical supplies and other DME out of landfills. Every item we receive is either refurbished, dismantled and sorted for recyclable parts, or we find other ministries that can use medical supplies. Lastly, if no use can be found or made, donations are cleaned and recycled.

This year, we received a surprise financial gift from the Kimble Foundation. Our Board of Directors elected to allocate the funds for a long-overdue clean-out of our warehouse of long-accumulated damaged donations that we cannot recondition to distribute overseas (No Junk for Jesus!) We allocated funds to set up a second day for Director of Operations, Patrick Rimke, to assess, sort, clean and move out these materials to recycling facilities. We also allocated funds to buy any needed parts to make some of the broken things whole again to ship overseas to help those who need it most.

The result? We have thus far recycled gel cell batteries from power wheelchairs, aluminum from damaged walkers, bent or broken wheelchair parts and other miscellaneous goods. These different metals were cleaned, sorted and delivered to Jeffco which recycles scrap metal for re-use. We received an additional small fee of $438, not enough to offset our costs, so the grant from Kimble made this service feasible.

Seven pallets of flattened cardboard boxes were also delivered to River Valley Paper. We have more to recycle and look forward to volunteer crews to help on Saturday Warehouse Whip-it events Nov. 30th and Dec. 7th.

We partnered with Jay’s Recycling to scrap and recycle our broken and damaged steel. Presently, we are accumulating more steel and mixed metals to make it worth another trip. It is best to have 3-4 tons at a time, and the price per ton has been low over the years. Jay works hard!

We have plastic parts from damaged bathroom aids to recycle. We will take our broken plastics to the Kimble recycle plant near our facility, once we have enough.

We receive medical supplies that our partnering in-country organizations (The RICD Wheelchair Project in Thailand and Christo Ayuda in Chile) can’t use, like aerosol machines, ventilators, oxygen equipment, adult diapers, bandages and other home medical devices. We re-donate these to Central American Medical Outreach, Vine International and other local ministries that distribute these items to Honduras and Guatemala.

Many heartfelt thanks to the Kimble Foundation for assisting us with our recycling efforts for those broken pieces and parts that remain unfit for distribution to persons with disabilities, and for giving that forgotten wheelchair that only needs a wheel-lock a chance to bless someone in need!

Pat and Mary Simons with the 1962 Willys Jeep they use to promote Wheels of Hope
Pat and Mary Simons with the 1962 Willys Jeep they use to promote Wheels of Hope

—by David Sullens, reprinted from The Courier Express of western Pennsylvania, May 2018

Pat Simons uses his 1962 Willys wagon to open doors for a cause about which he is passionate — Wheels of Hope. Wheels of Hope is an organization that collects mobility aids — wheelchairs, crutches, canes, walkers, prosthetics — and reconditions them before sending them overseas to people in less developed or less fortunate countries who need them.

Simons’ interest in the organization began with his daughter, Sarah, who, as he was taking her to school one day when she was 8 years old, heard about it on the radio.

The commentator made reference to people in another country “walking around on stumps” and about an organization that was attempting to help them.

After listening intently, Sarah asked Pat, “Can we get involved?”

Pat told her he would check on it. A month later, she asked again. And they did get involved.

But the operator of that organization moved it from Canton, Ohio to Colorado. It was not feasible to ship the donated equipment from the east side of the country to Colorado, so the Canton warehouse soon was home to a new organization — Wheels of Hope — with the same mission.

Refurbished equipment has been sent to Honduras, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru and its current focus is Thailand. At one point, Pat and Sarah went on a Wheels of Hope mission trip to Honduras.

Pat’s interest in his Willys stems from his having owned one when he was in his 20s. He recalls that it was his “daily driver” and he very much enjoyed it but, over time, it deteriorated. He bought another one — with no engine — and intended to “make one from two” but then came marriage. With no time, he eventually sold both 30 years ago “to a guy who is just finishing the project now.”

A few years ago, Simons started looking online for another Willys wagon. He found several, but most were too expensive. Finally he spotted one on Long Island that was priced at $13,500. In six months that price had fallen to $10,000, so he took his money and went to look at it. He bought it, he says, for $9,250.

“The outside was like it is now,” he said. “I’ve done nothing inside it yet and the engine still needs work.”

He has driven the wagon in parades and last year started taking it to car shows, “mostly for exposure” for Wheels of Hope.

The fact that the Willys he owns today is a 1962, which was what he owned more than 30 years ago, he says is either coincidence “or a God thing.”

The Willys is “mechanically sound” but needs a valve job, he said. “If the engine was running properly it would do 70,” he said, “but now only about 50-60.

It is powered by a “Super Hurricane” flathead six cylinder engine. Power is transferred to either the rear or all four wheels through a 3-speed manual transmission with overdrive and a two-speed transfer case.

Simons, who is a factory representative for Mac Metal Sales, said he has replaced the wagon’s heater, “so now it does heat.”

He put new, larger all-weather radial tires on it and has replaced “lots of seals.” He still needs to replace the door seals and re-do the wagon’s body mounts, he said. He also has given it a new single barrel carburetor.

It had already been repainted when he bought it. He does not typically drive it in the winter months, but has on occasion. “I use it every chance I get,” he said.

Hope in Motion Editor’s Addendum:
In addition to their showing Pat’s Willys to promote Wheels of Hope, Pat and Mary collect used wheelchairs and walking and bath aids and deliver them to our Canton warehouse about twice a year. Pat has not only received donated equipment, but donated storage space from DuBois Harley Davidson and the use of vehicles from Plylers Environmental Solutions to transport the equipment to us. They also serve on the Board of Directors, and we are thankful for all they do!