Archives for category: Volunteer power

Wheels of Hope shipped a forty foot sea container to Thailand in July with over a 127 wheelchairs, 185 folding walkers, 35 rollators, 118 pair of crutches, 118 canes, 74 bedside commodes and many other durable medical
equipment (DME) related items. But this almost didn’t happen in time!

As the shipping date kept getting closer, we got a big donation from the maintenance man at Grace Baptist Church of Brunswick, Pat Wilkinson. He called asking if we needed wheelchairs. He has a contact with a drugstore chain that needed to dispose of 30 or so wheelchairs and other DME. I asked when do they need picked up? I would need to rent a truck to get that many. He responded that he would bring them to the warehouse! Yes, yes Lord!

The chairs were like new and had minor issues. Our Tuesday Volunteers were able to get them done very quickly! Thanks again Lord!!! And just a month be- fore the date Pat Wilkinson called again with a few more new chairs.

Help Came …

Helpers to the rescue: volunteers from load a sea container bound for The Wheelchair Project, our partner organization in Thailand
Helpers to the rescue: volunteers from area churches and youth groups load a sea container bound for The Wheelchair Project, our partner organization in Thailand

And at the very last minute, God also supplied a great team of young folks to load the container that warm Saturday July morning! We had volunteers from Maranatha Bible Church and Hope United Methodist Church in Akron, Mission View Church in North Canton, and other friends lend a hand. In the weeks leading up to loading day, I was being distracted in thoughts of having to load this container with just my wife and I … thank you Lord for all the hands that made my worrisome thoughts vanish! He knew our needs!

Help came for Wheels of Hope! Hats off to Rick Thompson, of Thompson Target, for all his connections, and providing lunch for the crew!

… and Help Was Given to the Helpless

Meanwhile, in Thailand, Joey and Jasmine Tell and The Wheelchair Project team continue to distribute our equipment to the neediest. We are fairly certain that one of the bariatric wheelchairs Patrick shipped was recently given away to a father with … twins!

Jasmine shared on October 24 “I love how God provided for the unexpected in Ratchaburi this week! … two sons in need of a wheelchair, but only one caregiver to push them. This father came to us and requested a single wheelchair big enough for both of his sons. They were a walk in, no ap- plication prior, and we hadn’t come prepared for their request, we thought. But then we found a wheelchair wide enough to fit both brothers together, and the joy they felt was so visible to all around. It may be unconventional, but it is what this family needed and we were thankful to provide help to this amazing father and his beloved sons.” Jasmine adds that “in Ratchaburi [we are] supported by the local church” who follows up with the patients to build a long term relationship of care and the love of Christ.

Twins receive a transport chair wide enough to share at The Wheelchair Project in northern Thailand.
Twins receive a transport chair wide enough to share at The Wheelchair Project in northern Thailand.

Thank you Tells and The Wheelchair Project, for building on the strategy first envisioned with Joey’s dad, Doug Tell, and the RICD Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital in 2000.

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!

—by Patrick Rimke

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Since our noble volunteers are all camera shy, let me take you on a tour of their world. First, the long set of steps the volunteers must climb up to our second floor warehouse space.

Although we have not received donations from Invacare since 2012, we are keeping busy. We were found by Medwish last year and received over a hundred wheelchairs from them. Our new board member, Patrick Simons, in Dubois PA, brings us about 30 wheelchairs and other items every year. The Hatti Lharlum Foundation is supplying us with tilt-in-space wheelchairs a few times a year.

We also have our worse-case chairs. They are the ones that have been sitting on shelves while we focused on the chairs in better condition. Some of the inventory tags are from 1998. Many are very dusty and may have surface rust.

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At the top of the steps is our recycle and storage area for all things misfit. Here we stage equipment for parts, or deconstruct them to recycle the steel and aluminum.

Our volunteers have their work cut out for them. We are blessed to have their dedication, when they finish one, sometimes in two to three days, it looks very good, not new, but in very usable condition. The amount of TLC these chairs require is very time consuming for the volunteers, but these men cheerfully go the distance, week after week.

We get creative with some of them. We do not have matching upholstery so it may have a red seat, green back and gray arm pads. This may start a new trend in custom wheelchair designs! We are also making some of the wider chairs into narrow ones using smaller seat and back upholstery, because there is little need overseas for seating over 20” wide.

Tires, front and rear, are the next big challenge, some are worn down to the plastic wheel. We used most of our stock of good and new wheels last year and sent many replacement wheels to the Wheelchair Project Repair shop in Northern Thailand ( I wish we still had some of them.) We do have some replacement tires but no way to install them on rims.

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Footrests and leg-rests are also in short supply. Volunteer Larry Herring has been making modifications to make some work, which is again very time-consuming. Sometimes I have to say we will have to ship that chair with out them. Some users, such as amputees, don’t need foot rests, but ultimately that decision is up to the person seating the recipient.

I am so blessed to fellowship with these two teams of volunteers who come every Tuesday and Wednesday. These eleven guys come most every week, and many volunteer elsewhere during the week. Our Lord has called them to be a part of this ministry.

Because of all of us together, working with the Lord, many lives are changed. Our mobility recipients are able to go to school, work or just get outside in the fresh air. We don’t know how many have called out to Jesus in gratitude or given their lives to Him, but God knows. Their names are written in the Book!

1 Corinthians 3:6 speaks about some that plant and some that water, but God gives the increase. I believe all of us involved with Wheels are the ones who plant, and the ones who water are giving the equipment away in His Name and sharing the love of Christ. God gives the increase as those with disabilities, their families and caregivers discover His unconditional love.

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The other end of the main room has our shipping and receiving areas. In the foreground is durable medical equipment we have just received, awaiting Patrick’s assessment for condition, and inventory.

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Here is just one skid load of volunteer reconditioned chairs awaiting shipment in early 2017 to the Wheelchair Project in Thailand.

As we wind down our second year of work on the many years’ worth of donations in need of major rebuilding and repair work, we want to give a huge shout-out to our faithful volunteers who spend one day of every week working miracles, all year long.

The Tuesday crew has two Jims, George, Rick, Larry, Frank and Loren. The Wednesday team is two Johns and a Jon, a Jim, and Dan. These are the guys that keep Wheels rolling. Patrick stresses that his work in the warehouse is only a small part of the Wheels of Hope mission.

A typical Tuesday or Wednesday begins at 9am with fellowship and devotions. Work begins at 10 with Patrick providing chairs and needed parts and fielding questions about how to fix or modify them to make them usable, sometimes interchanging parts from one brand chair to another. Volunteers put in about 5 hours of TLC each, finishing up around 3pm.

An average wheelchair now takes two days to disassemble, repair and re- build, so the Tuesday guys often leave wheelchairs for the Wednesday guys to finish up and visa versa.

Patrick works to keep a collection of parts to choose from: side frame pieces, caster housings, etc. An example is a valuable tilt-in-space chair that needs a way to mount the rear wheels. We also have a number of extra-wide chairs that we modify by narrowing the seating to t a slender person who does not have access to the typical American diet!

Patrick relates that the volunteers are, in some cases “miracle workers. They take things in really rough condition: dirty, dusty and sometimes rusty. (Some of these chairs have been lurking in dark warehouse corners since 1998.) With TLC, these miracle workers first dismantle the chair of wheels, casters, armrests, etc. then clean the chair and detachable parts so they look good, and can be closely examined for problems like a bent castor fork or wobbly wheel. They lubricate the bearings so they function properly, and best of all, put all the parts back together to create a blessing.”

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Another team of miracle workers, Frank and Rick, have spent the last year repairing a mountain of rollators that Patrick had sorted for scrap metal. Rick spends his day at the pile, dismantling the rollators and determining whether the parts are usable. Then sorts them into piles. Frank takes the parts from those piles and rebuilds rollators to make them work. Sometimes he even is able to bolt broken frames together. The result, a functional piece of equipment that enables a frail person to keep moving.

Loren and Larry are the boxing and shipping team. Larry also searches out the right leg-rests to go with the wheelchairs being boxed. Patrick then, stages the boxed chairs and makes inventories for each shipment.

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Volunteers are at the heart of making Wheels work. Without their consistent and faithful labors, Wheels would remain a warehouse full of broken and rusted pieces like Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. Volunteers are the breath of God that puts those bones together to make a difference in the lives of persons with disabilities all over the world!

Total volunteer hours for the year: almost 3000! — with one 45’ container sent to Thailand and equipment for one 40’ container staged for Guatemala.

We look forward to what the God has in store for next year. We will continue to work on the more needy donations from past years, as well as new donations. Hopefully, rules will change to make it easier for manufacturers to make donations again. For a deeper look at the regulations affecting donations to all medical missions, go to http://fda.gov/downloads/RegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM127067.pdf

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