Howard is man of few words, but when he and his support team were reviewing his individual plan and goals, Howard said he wanted to “work with wood.” Christi Brown, a Community Skills Specialist with Boone County Family Resources, during part of an assessment, got him to open up about what he really likes to do, he said he wanted to “build houses.”
“Howard and I researched on-line for areas and found Habitat for Humanity and PET® MO-Columbia,” says Christi. “I called the PET® MO’s Executive Director, Gary Moreau, and arranged a visit. On the first visit, they asked him to do work right away and he started immediately. He jumped right in, followed instructions, completed the tasks well and was eager to work.”
PET® MO-Columbia started the PET Mobility Project in 1994. PET stands for Personal Energy Transportation and is a three-wheeled, hand-cranked wheelchair originally designed for people who had polio or were the victims of a landmine accidents in third-world countries. The main goal of the organization is to provide “the gift of mobility.” There are now 24 affiliate workshops across the US, building and shipping more than 44,000 PETs to almost 100 different countries. All the vehicles are hand-made by volunteers like Howard and his co-volunteers.
Howard now volunteers at the PET® Place, a production, receiving and shipping facility here in Columbia, twice a week for a couple of hours at a time. His fellow volunteers say he’s a hard worker and does a good job. “I went to visit Howard while he was volunteering,” says Mark Satterwhite, Director of Life & Work Connections at BCFR. “He was very engaged in what he was working on and the other volunteers said he’s just one of the guys.”
Howard says he enjoys giving his time at PET® MO-Columbia. “I take the different pieces of wood and attach them together for the base,” he says. The smile on his face says it all – even though he’s not technically “building houses,” he is working with his hands, building something that will help someone else in another community and doing something that he truly enjoys. “I like it,” he says.