5/5/2010 11:11:00 AM Wheelchair project gives mobility, dignity to those in need
Congregants of the Prescott Valley Emmanuel Lutheran Church raised $8,465.50 to pay for 142 wheelchairs for needy individuals. From left is Pastor Kirk Anderson, Warren Root, advocate for Free Wheelchair Mission, and Nancy Smith, who has issued a challenge to 115 congregations to begin a wheelchair project of their own.
Trib Photo/Sue Tone
Five years ago, while still living in California, Warren Root saw on the news an odd, yet strangely familiar, contraption. It was a common plastic resin lawn chair - on wheels.
The wheelchairs, simply designed with durable, ordinary parts, could be shipped around the world and easily assembled for only $59.20. Root learned more about the organization that provides these wheelchairs free to needy individuals in 77 countries, and today he is an advocate and speaker for Free Wheelchair Mission.
Root spoke to the Young at Heart members of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Prescott Valley in mid-March, and the congregants have since raised $8,465 - or the equivalent of 142 wheelchairs.
"I don't ask for money, I just let them know who's out there," Root said, adding that he speaks to church groups, Lions and Kiwanis clubs, and anyone else who wants to learn more.
The fundraising project lasted 6-8 weeks, said Pastor Kirk Anderson.
"I watched the video," Anderson said. "To watch individuals crawling through the dirt and see them lifted into the wheelchairs ... it lifted and touched our hearts."
Church member Nancy Smith said she went through the phone book and has mailed out 115 letters to congregations in the Quad-Cities challenging them to start a fundraising project of their own for the wheelchairs.
The international faith-based organization contracts with manufacturers in China to build the chairs and ship them around the world where a partner organization receives, assembles, and distributes the chairs to needy individuals. The company does not deliver chairs to people in the United States.
Mechanical engineer Don Schoendorfer came up with the simple design after visiting Morocco. He wanted something that would travel rough roads and would be easy to fix with readily available parts. He founded the non-profit in 2001.