Rebuilding from a New Perspective

Rebuilding from a New Perspective

By Boyd Huppert / KARE 11 Minneapolis, MN

RANDOLPH, Minnesota — The Firebirds, Chevelles and Camaros are gone from Bill Waldschmidt’s automotive shop.

“Just memories,” Bill says of the cars he once spent hours repairing and restoring.

When the last of the classic cars rolled out of Bill’s shop, different wheels moved in. These days, he toils for hours restoring power wheelchairs.

“Life has been really good to me,” Bill says. “So, I’ve got to pass it on.” 

In that proclamation, Bill’s optimism shines through.

Consider this: At age 4, Bill contracted polio and spent most of his childhood on crutches.

As an adult, he regained enough strength to walk up the aisle unassisted on his wedding day.

But 10 years ago, the retiree’s symptoms returned. Post-polio syndrome put Bill in a wheelchair, chasing the classic cars from his garage and giving Bill perspective he needed to help others.

During the past few years, Bill has refurbished dozens of power wheelchairs he’s then given away to people who can’t afford to buy one.

Don Johnson, a disabled Vietnam veteran, is now the owner of one of Bill’s chairs.   

“I’ve never had a gift like this, never,” says Don, who is missing his right leg. “He’s the kindest man on the planet that I’ve ever met. He does all this out of his heart, just out of the kindness of his heart.”

Given a tip, Bill will drive miles in his handicapped-accessible van to pick up a used power wheelchair.

“He sees no obstacles,” says Gerry Falkowski, program manager for the Donor Connect program of the Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota. “There’s a passion he has that’s hard to describe.”

Bill says he’s found far more satisfaction refurbishing wheelchairs, than restoring cars.

“I delivered a wheelchair to a guy who came out crawling, he had no legs,” Bill says. “He got right up into that wheel chair, biggest smile on his face.”

Bill spent his career working as an engineer for Twin Cities-based Thermo King. Though retired now, the engineer is still at it.

“I think his mind is always being creative and thinking,” says Bill’s wife Mary. “He’s touching so many people’s lives and I’m so proud of him.”

To learn more about how you can learn about how to donate a wheelchair to Bill and/or donate toward his battery replacement fund, follow the link HERE and scroll to the bottom of the article for Bill’s contact information.

Helping Others Dress for Success

Helping Others Dress for Success

Story: If You Have A New York Public Library Card, You Can Now Borrow Ties And Handbags, by Samantha Raphelson / NPR (9/21/18)

The New York Public Library lends out much more than just books, and now that includes clothes.

The library’s Riverside branch on the West Side of Manhattan is testing a pilot program that allows patrons to borrow neckties, briefcases and handbags – provided they have fines of less than $15 on their library cards. The idea is to help people with limited resources get access to suitable clothing and accessories for job interviews, graduations and other formal events, according to the library website.

The “Grow Up Work Fashion Library” was created by Michelle Lee, a young adult librarian at the Riverside branch who works with students at a nearby high school to prepare for job interviews, says Kimberly Spring, network manager of the Riverside area of branches for the New York Public Library.

Photo: Gabriella Angotti-Jones/The New York Times

“She hosted a series of job preparation workshops, and she noticed that a lot of her young participants did not have access to professional supplies or gear such as neckties, purses, briefcases, so she wanted to do something about that,” Spring tells Here & Now’s Lisa Mullins. “She sees these teens on a daily basis, and she established a rapport with them, so they trust her.”

Lee pitched the idea to the New York Public Library Innovation Project, which funds 25 programs submitted by staff members each year. Previous winning submissions include a job search program for the long-term unemployed, language exchange courses and a library staff job shadowing day, says the project website.

Lee’s idea was submitted along with 300 others. She then used the grant money to buy the items for the fashion lending program, Spring says, adding that the library also encourages residents to donate used clothing items.

People can check out items for up to three weeks, Spring says. The program is open to everyone with a library card, not just young adults, and almost 10 people have participated so far. Participants can also attend one of Lee’s job interview preparation workshops.

“You know, you look good, you feel good,” Spring says. “You feel more confident, you know, when you’re going out.”

Photo / New York Public Library


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