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How ‘A Couple Of Hours’ Of One Man’s Week Helps Hundreds Get Wheelchairs

For years, Pittsburgh-based medical relief charity Global Links has taken donations of wheelchairs, crutches and other mobility products.

Chris Meyer started volunteering with the group in 2010 after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, to help prepare those donated devices before they’re shipped to people in need.

“I started cleaning crutches … and progressed from there,” Meyer said. “One of the staff people did this before we had any dedicated volunteers.  He showed me, I showed other volunteers, but that frees the paid staff up to do the heavy lifting.”

It can take anywhere from an hour or two to clean a gently used wheelchair, and as many as five to six hours for chairs that need more attention.

“The parts are not interchangeable from manufacturer to manufacturer or model to model,” he said. “We have tons of parts but it is time consuming to sort through them, match the parts with the wheelchair and make a complete chair.”

Meyer is now the lead volunteer for the wheelchair effort, which enabled Global Links to send 482 chairs to those in need last year.

“The wheelchair program is a huge thing because mobility is a big deal. If you can’t walk around, life is much more difficult,” said Stacy Bodow, Global Links community engagement manager. “What that really means is the ability to get to school, to get to work, just to be part of life, part of their community because they can now be around other people.”

On a recent Thursday, Meyers sat in the workshop in Greentree while working on a small chair meant for a child that had all of its original parts. 

“This wheelchair is a real gem because … those are so rare,” he said. “A kid, God bless him, somewhere will get what he needs to not be stuck in his house and he can improve his quality of life.”

Meyer has never accompanied his work to a foreign country, but said he does get reports back from employees who have. 

“People come back with pictures and you just know that it is serving somebody somewhere and it’s the least I can do with a couple of hours a week of my time,” Meyer said.