UBC: How long has wheels for the world been in existence?
At least 25 years
UBC: Is this your first time being involved here with us at Unclaimed
At Unclaimed it is, yes.
UBC: Do you volunteer?
I do! I started volunteering in 2004. I went to some of Johnny and friends family retreats, and then I met someone at family retreat that asked me to go on a wheels for the world trip. So I went to India in May 2008, and we delivered 200 wheel chairs.
UBC: What is that experience like?
It was transforming! It was life transforming. If you are looking for somewhere to go and serve on a mission trip I highly recommend it. There is a team of about 15 people that meet the 200 wheel chairs in the country where we are sending them. Then we always have local ministries that coordinate with us and meet us over there. They send out applications of the most needy and India we had 500 applications. Unfortunately we could only give 200 simply because that is all we had. So people came— we had people at 5:30am crawling on their knees just to come and get a wheel chair.
UBC: So you only had 200 to give because that was all that you could transport?
Yes. That is what we normally transport is 200. Now down in some countries we give 400 away, but in India specifically on that trip we were only able to give 200. When I went to Cairo, Egypt in November of 2009 we were able to give away 200 then as well. So that is typically the standard amount that we give.
UBC: You’re based out of Alabama?
Correct, I am based down in Birmingham. I am just a volunteer the state chair corp for the state of Alabama.
UBC: Is that presence in every state?
We would like one in every state! I am not sure exactly what number of states we have a presence in right now.
UBC: As the state corp what do you focus on?
We just focus on collecting wheel chairs and then getting them transported to be able to be restored.
UBC: What does a donation of this size compare to other organizations you work with?
We have an organization down in Birmingham that donates some wheel chairs, but basically we just get chairs from individuals. So this is HUGE. We claim October as “Wheel chair awareness” in Alabama. There a few churches in the state that do the same thing around the same time. So a good wheel chair drive for us is typically around 100. Mostly we just have to get out and asked nursing homes and things of that nature.
UBC: Once they leave here in Scottsboro where are they headed to next?
This load will be going to Clifton, TN correctional center, and then we also deliver to Metro in Nashville.
UBC: How long has the program been established up in Clifton?
I am not entirely sure about that either.
UBC: Do you ever have the opportunity to go to any of theses correctional facilities?
My husband and I went to deliver 30 wheel chairs to Metro. We just loaded all of those wheel chairs in the back of his truck and a trailer. It’s a smaller facility, but Elizabeth out in California is the wheel chair coordinator for the entire ministry. She said that Clifton really has the largest warehouses for any of the restoration centers.
UBC: What are some of the stories that you hear coming back from the prisons from people that work on these?
On johnnyandfriends.org there is a link to footage that you can watch the collection of a wheel chair all the way through. It talks about how the team of 15 prisoners qualify to be in the program. They have to agree to do a bible study. So the prison chaplain works with the Wheels for the World coordinator there at the prison. Their lives are changed there at the prisons. They break down every wheel chair, take every nut and bolt off of it, clean it, put it back together, and it is truly amazing to see the process.
UBC: Do you know how many mission trips Johnny and Friends does per year?
I think there are 21 mission trips that we do every year. We are trying to set up restoration centers in the countries that we go to just so they can receive wheel chairs there and fix them in the same country.