A local Norwich businessman took on the year-long task of collecting gently used powered wheelchairs, refurbishing them and then giving them away to people who would never be able to buy one.
More than 60 disabled people made their way into the Holiday Inn in Norwich on Sunday morning via walkers or manual wheelchairs.
They were able to leave with powered wheelchairs thanks to the help of Phil Pavone.
"Some of these people have been home bound for years, these chairs are their mobility. This is a chance for them to get out of the house," Pavone said.
Jessica Rowley of Vernon suffers from multiple sclerosis and was able to get a new powered wheelchair.
"This chair will allow me to take my daughter to the bus in the morning and pick her up. I haven't been able to do that for a very long time," Rowley said.
The Gift of Mobility program began 6 years ago when Pavone, A-Z Pawn owner, had a couple of powered wheelchairs left over in his shop. He sought out letters of need and gave the chairs away.
"At the end of this give away, we would have given away almost 300 chairs to those would couldn't afford them," Pavone said.
Pavone had requests this year from 150 people, but he only had enough refurbished chairs for 60. One of the chairs went to Patty of Ledyard, who has no legs, but now she has her wheels.
"This is far more stable. I'll be able to get out of bed in the morning without pushing myself around the house, which will save my shoulders, which will get me a longer day out of it," Patty said.
Some of these wheelchairs can cost upwards of $50,000. When loved ones pass on and chairs sit idle, Pavone said people should recycle them for those who don't have the means to get one.
"There's nothing more rewarding than to see people come in here on crutches and ride out," Pavone said.
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