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Frank Gray

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Call before donating power scooters

When I wrote last week about a New Haven man who had his motorized wheelchair stolen, I got the sort of response I didn’t expect.

Sure, several people offered to kick in some cash to help the man buy a replacement scooter, but I got numerous calls from people – and even organizations – who were willing to give him motorized scooters that they had lying around.

Some were actually brand-new, or almost new, purchased for relatives who had soon after died or gone into nursing homes.

Others were older, but they had been sitting around in people’s garages or on their porches for years while the owners wondered what to do with them. In fact, most of the callers were delighted to even learn of someone who needed one of the vehicles.

It all revealed something unexpected. Though these wheelchairs and scooters can cost several thousand dollars, there is very little market for them when people are seeking to resell them.

The reason is simple. People who are on Medicare, or on disability, and many veterans qualify for free wheelchairs and scooters through various government programs. If you legitimately need one of the scooters, you can usually get one for free.

On the other hand, people who need one but for different reasons don’t qualify to get one for free usually don’t have the money to buy one themselves, I was told.

Even giving one of these scooters away gets difficult. One organization I spoke to, which specializes in helping people with handicaps, wasn’t sure what charities or organizations would accept the chairs.

One organization that has handed out scooters is Turnstone.

“People try to sell them and find out there is no market,” said Nancy Louraine, executive director. “They’re too easy to get.

“We do get them donated to us, and we lend them out,” Louraine said. Turnstone maintains ownership, but once a scooter or motorized wheelchair is in a client’s possession, the client is responsible for all maintenance.

One scooter, an employee at Turnstone said, came from a house in Aboite Township. The owners had moved and were selling the place, but they left a scooter, brand new with plastic still covering the seat and wheels, behind. A real estate agent had called Turnstone looking to get rid of it.

Louraine is careful, though, not to make it sound like they’re eager to accept donated scooters because scooters, in their own way, are a headache.

Turnstone does have some warehouse space, but not that much. If people suddenly donated a bunch of scooters, the charity wouldn’t have anywhere to put them.

Besides, these motorized wheelchairs are often very heavy. Turnstone doesn’t have the means to pick up someone’s unwanted scooter. And when it comes to lending them out, Turnstone doesn’t have the means to deliver one of these things.

The organization will accept scooter donations, Louraine said, but they’ve got to be in good condition and they have to work.

But anyone looking to try to hand one over to them should call first and not show up with one.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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