Did you know that the average cost of a motorized wheelchair starts at approximately $1,500 and can cost up to a whopping $40,000? That’s a hefty chunk of cash that most people aren’t just able to whip out of their bank account. Although insurance usually covers the expense of a motorized wheelchair if medically necessary, it can take months to get approved for coverage. If and when someone is able to purchase one of these devices thanks to insurance, the coverage is usually only enough to buy a basic motorized chair.
Vietnam War veteran and owner of A-Z Pawn Shop in Norwich, Connecticut, Philip Pavone, is trying to change the sad reality that many people in need are unable to afford a decent motorized wheelchair. No, he’s not trying to lower the cost of the chairs to make them more affordable. Instead, he’s giving them away for free!
It all started back in 2009 when Philip discovered a few motorized wheelchairs when he was cleaning the storage room of his pawnshop. His first reaction was to list the chairs for free in his local newspaper, hoping that someone that truly needed one could get their hands on one.
“I am a cancer survivor who knows firsthand what these chairs mean to people,” Philip said. So, to just toss the chairs out or even sell them was immoral in his eyes.
Two weeks after the newspaper listing, the pawnshop owner received over 60 letters from random people asking for a free motorized wheelchair. Many of the people in the letters had heartbreaking stories to tell regarding their disability and their financial struggles, which made it difficult to afford a chair.
“At that moment, I realized how many people out there were suffering. It was unbelievable.”
For these people to have the luxury of owning an electric wheelchair, let alone even a traditional wheelchair, would make a world of difference for them, Philip quickly discovered by reading each letter.
“Some of the people writing to me hadn’t left their homes for months, even years at a time. Many were elderly and had no one to help them.”
With only a few wheelchairs in his shop, Philip was inspired to do everything he could to help as many people with disabilities have access to a motorized wheelchair. So, he got to work.
“Each year since 2009, I have been collecting unwanted motorized wheelchairs and scooters, refurbishing them, and giving them away at the holiday season at no cost to the disabled who cannot afford them,” Philip states via his website.
Although finding and fixing up these wheelchairs is a lot of work, seeing how delighted people are when they receive their free unit is enough to keep Philip going with his project.
“Once we give these chairs to people and see how grateful they are —the tears and the hugging and kissing—I know we’re making a difference.”
Due to the high expenses involved in AZ Pawn’s Gift of Mobility, Philip and his pawnshop employees accept motorized chair and scooter donations from March 1 to October 31. Thanks to everyone’s help so far, he was able to give out 580 units in total!
For those who are unable to make a physical donation, Philip also currently has a GoFundMe account set up, so those out of the area can still help out with his project if they wish. 100% of the monetary donations go to helping Philip and his employees purchase more motorized wheelchairs for those in need. If you’re unable to donate, Philip kindly asks that you share the link to his GoFundMe on social media!
Learn more about AZ Pawn’s Gift of Mobility below.