‘Getting the chair,’ but in a good way

From Norwich, Conn., we learn of a pawnbroker who took the old advice and made lemonade from his lemons.

According to WTNH television, it began 5 years ago when Phil Pavone of A-Z Pawn bought a couple of motorized wheelchairs, expecting to resell them. They didn’t move, so he had another thought.

Kamaaina Loan blog called Pavone to get the rest of the story, with more perspective from pawnbroking operations than WTNH’s story provided:

It turns out, there’s more to creating a mobility project than taking in chairs by one door and handing them out at another. Pavone started by running newspaper ads, asking anyone with a disability to write or email him about their problem and how a chair would help.


He got 60 submissions.”I heard from people who had been homebound for years. . . .  You cannot believe how many flippin’ people fall between the cracks of eligibility. It’s a disaster.”

Pavone, a cancer survivor, says he understands what it means to be sick. He went out and bought four more chairs to give away.

From there, it grew, but not without a big push from him. “The most expensive part of the whole thing was getting the word out.” He advertised heavily in newspapers and on television for two years.

Now that he is established as “the go-to guy” in his area, the chairs come in to him as donations or inexpensive purchases. The program costs him around $10,000 a year.

A team of volunteers refurbishes the chairs, which usually amounts to no more than a new battery or a charger. A battery distributor provides batteries at cost.

Then he and his volunteers match the chair to the applicant: by weight (up to 250-300 pounds; or over 300); right or left-hand controls. Occasionally, a recipient will require a tilting chair to keep legs elevated.

“It’s not a tax writeoff,” says Pavone, who has two shops, one in Florida.”It’s about looking in the frickin’ mirror and liking what you see.”

He keeps his “Gift of Mobility” campaign going year-round. Sometimes he installs a chair in his shop with a placard, asking for donations of no-longer-needed chairs.

Then, about this time of year, he advertises for more stories. (He asks and gets special rates on this advertising.) His volunteers fix up the chairs and a few days before Christmas they lend pickup trucks to deliver chairs to recipients who cannot come to A-Z Pawn.

As of Veterans Day, he had “at least 40-45 chairs” to present, and another 11 or so being spruced up and probably to be ready by donation day (around Dec. 21).

You can learn more about Gift of Mobility, with links to Youtube videos of past campaigns, here.

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