Over the decade, members of the Minneota, Marshall and Canby Rotary Clubs have been assisting Hope Haven International with the collection of used wheelchairs and other apparatuses to be delivered to third world countries.
Hope Haven International, located in Sioux Falls, has been promoting the drive since 1996. Rotary Clubs within South Dakota, as well as parts of North Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska, have been a part of the drive since its inception 23 years ago. The local Rotary clubs joined the drive in 2009.
"We probably deliver 3,000 to 5,000 wheelchairs to under-developed countries," said Hope Haven Foundation Director Mark Siesmonsma. "We distribute them to these countries 10 to 12 times a year." Karl's TV and Appliance stores are the collection points for the used wheelchairs, as well as canes, walkers, and crutches.
The various apparatuses are then taken to seven locations in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska where volunteers repair and rebuild the wheelchairs before they are sent to Hope Haven International.
"The Bike Shop in Marshall is the collection point for the Minneota, Marshall and Canby clubs, because we do not have a Karl's within reasonable distance," said Rick Bot of the Minneota Rotary Club. The Minnesota repair shop is located in Edgerton.
Another repair location is the Sioux Falls State Penitentiary where as many as 40 inmates volunteer to repair the wheelchairs.
"The neat story about the inmates is that they are paid only 25 cents per hour to repair the wheelchairs," said Siesmonsma. "There are other jobs they could do for minimum wage, but they like this program so they volunteer for much less pay."
As many as eight to 15 people embark on the distribution trips to deliver the medical apparatuses. "We are planning to deliver them in 2020 to places in Vietnam, Kenya, Romania, Ukraine, India and Mexico," Siesmonsma said.
Hope Haven also has manufacturing plants and personnel in Romania, Guatemala and Vietnam. Wheelchairs and other apparatus are donated to the local Rotary Clubs by nursing homes, hospitals, medical equipment sales dealers, military organizations, and individuals.
"We want to give mobility to those in need around the world," said Siesmonsma.
"We really appreciate the help of these Rotary Clubs. And some Rotary members have gone with us on past distribution trips, too."
Hope Haven is not seeking any electric wheelchairs or wooden canes, crutches or walkers.
"We only want metal apparatus," Siesmonsma said.
"They last much longer.” "But we need all kinds of wheelchairs such as standard, recliners and pediatric. We generally know who will be receiving the chairs before we distribute them, so they are custom made to fit the person.”