Hope Haven wheelchair workshop

Volunteers at a wheelchair workshop in George rebuild donated wheelchairs as they refurbish and repair them in preparation for distribution to people with disabilities around the world.

ROCK VALLEY—Have a wheelchair, cane or other mobility aid you no longer need?

Donate it to Hope Haven’s annual wheelchair drive. Your unused equipment will help people with disabilities around the world improve their quality of life.

Hope Haven provides employment, living and mental health resources for people with disabilities in the Midwest. The Rock-Valley based nonprofit noted its 25th anniversary of distributing wheelchairs through its International Ministries program last year.

“Receiving an unused wheelchair can be such a life-changing opportunity for someone in need of it anywhere in the world,” said Brooke Kooima, Hope Haven’s marketing manager.

Hope Haven is partnering with Karl’s TV, Audio, Appliances & Furniture to collect wheelchair donations. The donations may be dropped off at Hope Haven or any Karl’s location.

The following mobility aids will be accepted at any of these locations through Dec. 31:

  • Manual wheelchairs.
  • Canes or crutches (not wooden).
  • Walkers.
  • Shower chairs.

Power wheelchairs will not be accepted.

Every year Hope Haven receives hundreds of wheelchairs through the drive. Each wheelchair then is refurbished and eventually distributed to an individual in need in another country.

“It’s kind of a unique cycle of events to process and get the wheelchairs to the end user,” Kooima said.

Donated wheelchairs are individually refurbished and repaired by Hope Haven volunteers at wheelchair workshops around the Midwest. The two N’West Iowa workshops are in Rock Valley and George.

Hope Haven provides a working space with tools and materials needed to take apart or repair each chair. Local volunteers step up with their time and labor to individually clean, oil, upholster and otherwise repair each wheelchair to make it like new.

“They put a lot of effort into that,” Kooima said. “They do a lot of work to make sure everything is up to par. Most of the chairs we get are in pretty decent condition, but they make sure it’s safe and ready to go for the end user.”

Hope Haven has about 60 volunteers working in wheelchair workshops across the Midwest. Inmates from the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls also contribute to refurbishing donated wheelchairs. This process goes on year round to keep up with the volume donated every fall.

Since Hope Haven’s International Ministries started in 1994, Hope Haven has donated more than 130,000 wheelchairs in 109 countries.

Due to travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic, distribution has been slowed this year, but Kooima said wheelchairs are continuing to be shipped to distribution centers in Vietnam, Romania and Guatemala. Each wheelchair is individually customized and fit to a new owner before being given away.

“They’re given to someone in a country around the world who maybe has never had a wheelchair and has a disability. Now they’re able to go to school, get a job, have a better quality of life,” Kooima said.

Wheelchairs have been collected from nursing homes and hospitals, but Kooima said most are donated by families after a loved one passes away or no longer needs a wheelchair. Kooima encouraged people storing chairs to consider donating and getting them back in use again.

“The wheelchair that maybe is sitting in somebody’s basement or attic is really life-changing ultimately to someone else where getting a wheelchair is an opportunity that does not come about as often as it does in the United States,” Kooima said.