David Carroll has worked with Goodwill’s Health Equipment Links Program (HELPs) for several years. He repairs and refurbishes medical equipment so it can be given away at no charge to people who live in Goodwill’s 23-county service area.David hesitates to say repairing medical equipment is something he was led to do. But he does think he and Goodwill are a good fit. Initially referred to Goodwill as a client, he was quickly singled out by his case manager due to his experience as a wheelchair tech. HELPs was having its busiest year ever. It could use another technician.
Wheelchair repair is a skill David picked up out of necessity. He’s been in a wheelchair since September 27, 1991, the day he totaled his 1977 Camaro. The accident resulted in a spinal cord injury, and today, he is a “high functioning quadriplegic.” In laymen’s terms that means David can’t use his legs. He has since regained the use of one arm. After the accident, David enrolled at Tennessee Temple University in Bible and missionary studies. Between semesters, he worked for a local wheelchair repair business and learned how to fix commercial chairs and scooters for places such as WalMart, Target, Home Depot and Sears.
When not working, David raises his daughter Abigail of whom he has sole custody. Abigail is a smart and lively student at Calvary Christian School in Chattanooga. She was born with some physical limitations of her own. And when not working or parenting, David serves as a volunteer with Prison Prevention Ministry. It’s a local program focusing on keeping at-risk youth out of prison and keeping others from returning to prison. “I tell them I’m incarcerated, too. I’m in a wheelchair. But life is not over. There are certain things that you just need to get over, and you keep moving forward,” he said.
Goodwill has helped with “moving forward,” providing not only an income but an opportunity to use his experience, both mechanical and personal, David explains. Today David oversees several volunteers and clients in the HELPs workshop, and he is responsible for communicating with applicants for equipment and makes sure each piece is correctly sized for the person and is in good shape.
“It’s been an opportunity for me to use my skills. I eat and breathe this stuff. It gives me an opportunity to help others. I enjoy it. It’s neat to see people’s faces, the joy and the hope when you help them. I can’t tell you how many hugs I’ve gotten. People are very appreciative. “It has been an avenue to stabilize my life and to take care of my daughter.” He wants her to see him as “faith in action” and “disability in action,” he explains.
And that’s one more job David Carroll gladly takes on.