Rural Missouri - November 2010 - (Page 10)

Thousands of disabled around the world have a new lease on life thanks to a PET from Missouri Mobility’s best friend M abilities, in 1994. But it was in 1995 when he made a divine connection. “It was finally clicking in our brains, ‘Why not more?,’” Mark says. oonlight reveals the While on a trip across the country exhaustion on Mark that year, Mark passed through MisRichard’s face. As he souri. He decided to visit some old gazes out the bus window friends in Columbia. They told him to the valley below, lights from the about their new neighbor who was makeshift houses of passing villages making some kind of a wheelchair in flicker like fireflies in the evening his garage. twilight. After a long day, it is hard The man was Mel West, a retired for him to keep his eyes open, but Methodist minister who had been the satisfaction of knowing he helped involved with mission work for 40 change several lives keeps him awake. years. He was now fabricating a new Mark and a dozen other volunteers breed of wheelchairs, one that could from Missouri and elsewhere were take disabled people across the world returning from distributing wheelto places where conventional wheelchairs to disabled villagers in San chairs couldn’t go. Bernadino in southwestern GuateMel was building the first PET promala. Their mission was to deliver 40 totypes, a wheelchair with hauling specially modified wheelchairs called capacity that is powered by a handPETs (Personal Energy Transportation). cranked, chain-driven system. Created in Missouri in the 1990s, PETs “It was amazing what he was buildhave been given to those in need in ing,” Mark says. “Within a few mincountries all around the world. utes, we found we had common goals, On this bus is exactly where Mark interests and mutual friends that hoped to be in 1988. Back then, he could provide for a great partnership. had already begun an illustrious career It truly was a divine connection that helping people. But it was one night brought us together.” in Guatemala while driving home that The 90-pound PET is constructed sent his life of service down a differof a pressure-treated wood frame with ent path. three solid rubber tires that eliminate He was returning from a day workthe chance of flats. A bike chain coning with a nonprofit organization in nects hand cranks to the front wheel Guatemala City when he saw one to propel the chair. The current design of his neighbors, who was disabled, features an adjustable seat back that crawling across the road. can be modified based on a rider’s dis“I almost ran her over,” Mark says. ability. A front hand brake helps slow “At first I thought it was an animal Oscar Lopez received a PET (Personal Energy Transportation) three years ago. After down the machine, and a wooden because I was just barely able to see five years of being bedridden, the 40-year-old is able to move around and makes a wedge inserted on a rear wheel acts as her in the headlights. I couldn’t living as a street begger in the southern Guatemala city of La Gomera. a parking brake. Each costs around believe what I just had seen.” $250 to build, whereas standard Mark promised the lady he wheelchairs cost about $850. would return with a wheelchair for Assembly of the chairs is simple, her and so began a battle for mobilrequiring only a few basic tools. ity he is still fighting today. PET shipments first began in “Our two-year commitment 1996 to a mission group in Zaire for the mission trip was up, but I (now Congo), Africa. didn’t want to leave,” Mark says. Fifteen years after the first model “We still had so many more people was built in Mel’s Columbia garage, to help.” nearly a 100 PETs are built each When he and his wife, Sandy, week in shops across the world. moved back to the United States, More than 20,000 PETs have been he started soliciting donations to shipped to more than 80 countries help people in other countries. He in Central and South America, Afrifirst collected 20 wheelchairs, refurca, Asia and eastern Europe. bished them and drove down to In 2000, the first PET producGuatemala in an old school bus he tion, receiving and shipping facilihad bought to use for deliveries to ties opened in Columbia and Penhis former neighbors. ney Farms, Fla. Today, there are During the next three years, more than 20 production facilities whenever he got time off from around the world with a second his job at a wholesale greenhouse, Missouri location in Mount VerMark would make the weeklong non. As in the beginning, individutrip from his home in Ohio to als also construct parts from their Guatemala to deliver wheelchairs. own garages and shops just as Mel He saw success with the distribuWest did. tions, but he wanted to expand. He Susan Williams of Columbia, Mo., assists a worker from Hope Haven International Ministry SEMO Electric Cooperative joined Hope Haven International member Paul Cook, for example, Ministries, an organization dedicat- with the assembly of a PET during a distribution in September in San Bernadino. Williams volunteers at the PET production facility in Columbia. The two groups work together on wheelproduces wood frames for PETs at ed to bringing mobility to people chair distributions for the disabled in developing countries around the world. his home in Puxico. in developing countries with disby Kyle Spradley kspradley@ruralmissouri.coop 10 RURAL MISSOURI

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - November 2010

Rural Missouri - November 2010
Contents
Comments
Columns
Mobility's Best Friend
Mail Bag
Rural Issues Explored at AMEC Annual Meeting
Out of the Way Eats
The Missouri Connection
Big Screen Savings
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Best of Rural Missouri
Lest We Forget
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - November 2010

Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Rural Missouri - November 2010 (Page Cover1)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Rural Missouri - November 2010 (Page Cover2)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Contents (Page 3)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Comments (Page 4)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 5)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 6)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 7)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 8)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Columns (Page 9)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mobility's Best Friend (Page 10)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mobility's Best Friend (Page 11)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mobility's Best Friend (Page 12)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mobility's Best Friend (Page 13)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mail Bag (Page 14)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Mail Bag (Page 15)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Rural Issues Explored at AMEC Annual Meeting (Page 16)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Rural Issues Explored at AMEC Annual Meeting (Page 17)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Out of the Way Eats (Page 18)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Out of the Way Eats (Page 19)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - The Missouri Connection (Page 20)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - The Missouri Connection (Page 21)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Big Screen Savings (Page 22)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Big Screen Savings (Page 23)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Big Screen Savings (Page 24)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Hearth and Home (Page 25)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - News Briefs (Page 26)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Best of Rural Missouri (Page 27)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Best of Rural Missouri (Page 28)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Lest We Forget (Page 29)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Marketplace (Page 30)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Marketplace (Page 31)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Around Missouri (Page 32)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Around Missouri (Page 33)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Around Missouri (Page 34)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Around Missouri (Page 35)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Neighbors (Page 36)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Neighbors (Page 37)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Just4Kids (Page 38)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Just4Kids (Page 39)
Rural Missouri - November 2010 - Just4Kids (Page Cover4)
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