The Florida and Georgia Thrivent Member Network and Thrivent financial representatives held a Generosity Night on August 15 at Coral Ridge Country Club, featuring Hope Haven. The event raised more than $4,000 for Hope Haven International, a ministry that manufactures and distributes wheelchairs to children and adults with disabilities in developing countries worldwide. It also stirred interest among attendees in short term mission trips to deliver, assemble and personally fit the wheelchairs to recipients.
During the event, John Novoa, a Thrivent advisor, explained that as a Christian organization, Thrivent helps members be wise with money and live generously, resulting in stronger members, families and communities. The generosity event was an opportunity to acquaint members with a nonprofit they may wish to support.
For over 50 years, Hope Haven, based in the small, rural town of Rock Valley, Iowa, has been assisting people with disabilities in the Midwest through work and life skills so that they may enjoy a productive life in their community. They expanded their mission in the early 1990s after traveling to the Dominican Republic and Romania where they experienced firsthand the living conditions and extraordinary difficulty of children and adults with disabilities in developing countries. In 1994, Hope Haven International was founded to deliver mobility, dignity and hope to those without a wheelchair. Since then, more than 120,000 wheelchairs have been distributed to people in 108 countries, shipping about 6,000 wheelchairs annually.
In a video presentation, attendees witnessed wheelchairs being distributed to recipients from all walks of life in Guatemala, Romania and Vietnam. Women arrived carrying their almost adult children on their backs, and many waited patiently for hours to receive their wheelchair.
Mark Siemonsma, director of development for Hope Haven, demonstrated the Beeline, their unique wheelchair design that is versatile, adjustable and extremely durable on rough terrain. Surprisingly, the wheelchairs are built by inmates from South Dakota State Penitentiary. In the video presentation, they shared their pride in being able to give back by building wheelchairs that would set people free around the world who had been prisoners of their own bedrooms because of their disability. While specialized wheelchairs can cost up to $50,000 or more, Siemonsma said their simple design can be built for only $250. The charity also utilizes remanufactured wheelchairs when possible, repurposing used wheelchairs for those in need.
Hope Haven works with partner organizations in the field, such as Samaritan’s Purse and others, to coordinate wheelchair distribution. They also send along physical therapists and seating specialists to be sure the chairs are fitted properly, using special head support, side supports and reclining features. However, volunteers are needed to help with delivery, assembly and fitting. They are currently looking for team members, who travel on their own expense, for a short-term mission trip to Las Cabos, Mexico, where they will deliver 200 chairs, said Siemonsma.
For more information on Hope Haven, visit www.hopehaven.org.