For 28 years, Newton resident Wayne Richards has been helping out in the community, but sadly this year will be his last.
Richards has been volunteering at the Salvation Army Loan Closet since his retirement from the U.S. Post Office in the mid-1980s. His job consists of taking apart items and cleaning them.
“I love what I do,” Richards said. “I enjoy people. It’s a volunteer job, and I tell people, ‘I make no money at it, but I’m well paid.’ When I retire, I am going to miss it. I helped out a lot of people over the years. I will stay connected to the Salvation Army when I retire.”
He has perfected his craft over the years. For him, it’s an educational experience because there are no manuals. The items that he cannot save are recycled.
“I’d like to think of it as a recycle center,” Richards said. “If it’s not worth rebuilding, we will scrap it. My theory is, if I don’t want it in my house, I don’t want it in your house.”
He also helped create record sheets.
“When I started this, they had no records at all,” Richards said. “They didn’t have much equipment. It was originally started by The American Cancer Society. Back in the day, if I had one customer a week, it was a good week.”
He also saves various parts to use on other projects. At his workstation, there is a corner full of wheelchair parts.
He has even helped Skiff Medical Center by donating equipment it did not have.
In his line of work, he seen many items advance over the years.
“I get to see how things develop over the years,” Richards said.” I work with people pretty much. I take time to talk to them, and I have learned about what this equipment can do.”
He went over to his workstation and gabbed an arm rest that seemed to be from a wheelchair-like device.
“This chair is called a transporter,” Richards said. “It is for a person who does not have the strength to propel a wheelchair. A patient cannot propel this one — it has foot rests. It is meant for someone to transport them. They’re not well-known. I think this is one of the most interesting things that I had for quite a while.”
Another item he has learned about are stool risers. They are meant to elevate the toilet seat to help the patient use the bathroom Richards said.
In his work area, he has a variety of walking canes and walkers. There were some that are heavy, but the more recent ones are light. He even had a one handed walker. He said it was used for people who had a weak side or hand.
Over the years he saw many items, but there was one item that he got to keep over the years was a cane with a lion’s head on it.
“I do have a cane that I have gotten through here,” Richards said. “I don’t use it much, but there has been occasions when I had to use it.”
His family is a big part of his life. Richards raised his granddaughter, and he was able to reconnect with a younger generation.
“One thing that I relearned was to talk to young people,” said Richards.
He recently received a letter signed by his great-granddaughter who is 4 years old.
“My granddaughter wrote the thank you message, but the little one signed it,” Richards said with a smile. “It’s the first time she has ever done that.”
Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.