MARYLAND

Washington Area Wheelchair Society in danger of closing

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A Montgomery County non-profit that prides itself on helping others is in desperate need of help itself.

The Washington Area Wheelchair Society is on the verge of collapse.

The organization provides free medical equipment to those in need, but the troubling economy is threatening its future. The Wheelchair Society is entirely volunteer-based. And now just shy of its 30th birthday, it's out of money.

Paul Holland is the executive director of the Washington Area Wheelchair Society and takes pride in giving used medical equipment a new life.

"One of today's projects is we're repairing a home medical bed," Holland said.

Since 1983, volunteers have given the needy canes, wheelchairs, power scooters and more for free.

Silver Spring resident Samantha Cambridge said, " I didn't leave here feeling little. I didn't leave here feeling like a beggar. I left here feeling like I had a partner to help me walk through my dad's sickness."

Cambridge came to the society three weeks ago. Her father's health deteriorated following complications from prostate cancer. He had no medical insurance to cover the cost of a wheelchair.

" I left here like I had gone shopping, and I was a millionaire. I had a walker, the stool, the wheelchair. All this stuff," Cambridge added.

Silver Spring resident Wesley Young suffers from a spinal cord injury and received a $2,400 scooter from the society free of charge.

"If I did not have this scooter, then I would not be mobile," Young said.

But now, others like him may be turned away.

Holland said, " If we don't raise the money to pay the bills, we will have to close."

Right now, the society is two months behind on rent and utilities. That's about $3,000 in the red.

Local occupational therapist who call the Wheelchair Society a saving grace fear the worst if donations aren't driven up.

Charles Drake, a Medstar Home Health Occupational Therapist, said, "Many, many times I've had patients fall through the cracks, so to speak, and Medicare won't cover the equipment. They've lost the equipment and Medicare won't replace it."

You can help by mailing cash donations to this address:

Washington Area Wheelchair Society
8220 Mayor Lane
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 495-0277

You can also drop them off in person Sunday through Friday from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m.

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