crutches for Africa

The Rotary Club of Mercer is asking people to leave crutches, walkers or prosthetic limbs in a big blue container outside businesses. In back, Michael Davis and Aaron Sines are Mercer rotarians, in front, Noah Sines poses with a walker with Kateri Linn, manager of the MERP program outside TADA, The Academy of Dance Anatomy, 110 N. Pitt St., Mercer.

MERCER – The giant blue bins around Mercer are part of a charity drive, “Crutches for Africa,” sponsored by the Rotary Club of Mercer.

The drive is part of an ongoing Rotary International program that takes donated crutches, walkers and prosthetic limbs, cleans them and sends them to Africa so they can be reused and refitted.

“Which is amazing to me,” said Rotary member Michael Davis. “In the spring, we will make a presentation at a basketball game to show everything we’ve garnered over the winter.”

The drive started in October and will run until March 5, ending with the Rotary basketball game at Mercer High School. Rotary members will play Take Flight, a team comprised of former professional and Division I basketball players who help with charity fundraisers.

Mercer Rotary is moving the bins to different businesses, but right now they are located in Mercer outside Mercer High School, The Academy of Dance Anatomy, 110 N. Pitt St., and Walt’s Golden Dawn, 531 Greenville Road. 

MERP, Medical Equipment Recycling Program, is among the organizations helping out. So far, the agency has donated 75 walkers, crutches and prosthetic limbs. MERP is a non-profit supported by the UPMC Horizon Community Health Foundation, with locations in Greenville and Farrell.

“We lend out medical equipment at no charge to people in the community. We also are a collection for medical equipment that people aren’t using,” said Kateri Linn, MERP manager. “Instead of throwing it in the landfill, you donate it to MERP, we refurbish it and lend it out. So it’s a green initiative and a human service. We’re helping people in our community and trying to save the earth at the same time.”

“We’re trying to share the wealth and if we can help with another cause, we’re willing to,” Linn said. “When I saw the Rotary was doing this, it was the perfect opportunity for us to join up.”

Crutches for Africa was started in 2005 by David Talbot, a Colorado resident and polio survivor.

“He went to Uganda and noticed all these people affected by polio and they would crawl around on their hands and knees because they didn’t have any walkers or anything,” said Aaron Sines, rotarian. “So he started Crutches for Africa.”

Talbot’s goal was to send one million devices to Africa.

The donations are shipped to Uganda at a cost of $3 per device. Once the shipping container arrives at its destination, a team flies to Uganda and distributes the donations.

David said the Rotary’s effort was part of the social organization’s overall mission.

“Rotary’s theme for the year is “Rotary connects the world,” Davis said. “It’s connecting within our communities too and doing good within our communities.”

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