Coincidentally, Ten Thousand Villages on Main Street in Ann Arbor also raises funds to purchase rough-terrain wheelchairs. Volunteers at the "fair trade" store raise money through sales of donated vintage jewelry, and this year they pledged $2,000 to the Bombolulu Workshops in Kenya, where the chairs will be built and distributed to needy Kenyans. "The benefits are immense," says store manager Susan Rogal. "Society weeds out those who can't keep up."
"This absolutely changes lives," longtime store volunteer Kathy Wilkinson adds. "It gives people a sense of independence. Self-esteem just soars."
Neither Minnette nor Rogal sees much use for the simple, rugged chairs in the heavily paved United States. Other factors discouraging use here, according to Minnette, are this country's product liability laws and willingness to sue. That course of action would seem foreign indeed to the PET wheelchairs' grateful recipients.
The PET workshop is located at 7415 Carpenter Road. It operates Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon. The shop can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.