When Habitat for Humanity needs labor on a house build, it casts a wide net to recruit volunteers of all skill levels and abilities. But when Habitat's ReStore Health & Home wanted 17 donated power mobility wheelchairs to shine like new, the call went to the masters in detailing: a group of Harley-Davidson owners and the Wieblers Harley-Davison dealership in north Davenport.
With their shiny Harleys parked nearby, several members of Harley Owners Group, Illowa H.O.G. 1348, gathered Monday afternoon at Wieblers to help ReStore staff get the wheelchairs ready to go to new owners. Using cleaning supplies made for motorcycles — donated by Wieblers — and buckets of soap and water, the volunteer crew cleaned seats, wheels and the metal bases, painted in many of the same colors as their Harleys.
John Crane, the H.O.G. chapter's director, was wiping and cleaning all the nooks and crannies of a pediatric wheelchair when he said "it's just like a motorbike."
"We have the manpower to make it sparkle and shine," he said of the half dozen volunteers who donated their time.
"We had a glut of these chairs and we were slowly getting through them, but we couldn't keep up," said Beth Laureijs, manager of Health & Home, a division of ReStore. After ReStore's technicians had inspected the chairs and got them into proper working condition, she said they began thinking about who could do the necessary cleaning.
''We thought of motorcycles. There's a lot of similarities," she said not only of the intricate parts that make them run, but the mobility both provide.
It was the first partnership between Habitat and the Harley riders, who are big supporters of the Children's Therapy Center, Moline, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley.
John Riley, Wieblers' marketing and events coordinator, said the dealership and H.O.G. members saw it as a great opportunity to help the community. "These represent freedom to somebody who has restricted movement. We always look at Harleys as the same thing — freedom to escape it all."
ReStore Health & Home was established three years ago as part of ReStore to accept donations of durable medical equipment to be resold to the public. The sales ultimately benefit Habitat for Humanity Quad-Cities.
"We sell a fair amount of wheelchairs," Laureijs said, looking around at the variety of chairs being cleaned in Wieblers parking lot. From their weight capacities to a range of functions and styles, she said the chairs can meet a variety of needs. "We have a pediatric chair to a chair that tilts for somebody who lives their life in a wheelchair."
She added that the wheelchairs are sold for "a fraction of the cost" of a new chair. The price is set based on its condition, functions and the original price.
Jim McGrath, a Davenport retiree who spends a lot of time on his motorcycle, also was among the volunteers answering the call for help. Cleaning up one of the chairs, he compared it to keeping his own bike clean. "It's nicer to ride a clean bike than a dirty one."