Posted 11:43 am, January 25, 2016, by Megan Reuther
LEIGHTON, Iowa –Millions of people live with disabilities around the world. Many are in low-income countries and can’t afford the devices needed to get around. But one group in a small Iowa town is working to give the gift of mobility.
It’s challenging work that keeps these volunteers busy.
“I’m retired. I worked at Vermeer Manufacturing, and I figured I should do something in my retirement that’s beneficial,” said Don Olivier.
The group of 50 people gets together a couple times a week for their pet project.
“The mission statement of the organization says, ‘Provide meaningful transportation for those who have lost use of legs.’ But, secondly, is the meaningful activity for retirees,” said William Bruxvoort.
PET IA-Leighton is part of a national faith-based organization. The chapter has two workshops just blocks from each other in the small town.
“We’re a farming area here, so we have a lot of people who have had farm experience. They’ve had factory experience, welding, that type of thing,” said Pete Verhey, president of the Iowa organization.
The volunteers build personal energy transportation devices known as PET Carts, “a three-wheeled, hand-cranked wheelchair that can be used in rough terrain anywhere in the world,” said Verhey.
The group formed more than four years ago in Leighton, and so far they’ve made nearly 1,900 of the special transportation devices, which have gone to people all over the world who can’t walk.
“They have no hope before they get these wheelchairs. They’re left in bed. They’re ignored. They can’t go to school. They can’t go anywhere. Once they get one of these, they’re free to go anywhere they want,” said Verhey.
Volunteers packed 120 of the PET carts in boxes in December and shipped them to Haiti, where some members will travel in February to hand them out.
“I’ve been to third-world countries and I’ve come back. It just totally changes your life. I’ve been there on that, and I know it’s going to be even more so this time,” said volunteer Al Kopaska.
A couple dozen members will make the trip and return to keep building hope as they give the gift of mobility.
“It’s very humbling, very humbling,” Bruxvoort said.
It costs less than $300 to make one PET cart. The organization collects donations from area churches, individuals and in-kind donations of materials from local businesses.