Proud to Be From Pittsburgh

Proud to be from Pittsburgh: Wheelchair Wranglers

PITTSBURGH — Each week a small group of men gathers to fix up old wheelchairs that are desperately needed here and around the world. These Wheelchair Wranglers are making us Proud to be from Pittsburgh.

Five retired men gather at different times each week to repair donated wheelchairs. The group is part of Global Links, a nonprofit that takes the medical surplus and gives it to other nonprofits working with low-income communities here in Western Pennsylvania and around the world.

“Wheelchairs that are no longer needed,” said Global Links Executive Director, Angela Garcia. “As family members lose someone, or they’re transferred to a care facility: those wheelchairs can be donated to us.”

The Wheelchairs can be in any condition; they are brought in assessed and then brought up to a quality standard.

Retired Neurosurgeon Dave Engle said they see an array of donated wheelchairs, "torn seats, torn backs or parts missing, or wheels broke, so it's usually a combination of a repair then cleaning."

Global Links has a two-pronged approach to its mission; to keep useful things out of landfills and also provide them to people in need. The small group has fixed up 1,000 wheelchairs in the past four years. Three hundred were donated to local people, and 700 were given to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Sometimes you think ‘Oh this is going to be quick and dirty, this is going to be an easy job,' then you find a part is missing, and you can’t match it up, and that’s the most frustrating part,” said Chris Meyer, who’s been volunteering for the past 10 years.

Meyer knows how vital a wheelchair can be - his wife uses one daily.

“Without that wheelchair, she couldn’t continue to work and enjoy the quality of life,” said Meyer.

Related: Proud to be from Pittsburgh: Community helping small businesses during the pandemic

Meyer and this group of men, which is made up of two retired doctors, say they look at wheelchairs completely different than they did before.

“I never really paid attention to patients sitting in them,” said Engle. “But now, when I see them at airports or wherever you looked at them and figure out how much it would be to get that in good shape.”

Each volunteer is producing about 50 wheelchairs a year, and Garcia says they are always looking for more people who want to lend a hand.

“How many wheelchairs do you think you fixed over the 10 years?” asked the reporter.

“Not as many as I’d like too,” responded Meyer.

The Wheelchair Wranglers are making us Proud to be from Pittsburgh.

To see what items Global Links takes as a donation or if you want to learn how you can join their mission -- Click Here.

If you want to nominate someone or a group doing good in our region, CLICK HERE to fill out our nomination form on our Proud to be from Pittsburgh page.

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