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Nonprofit gives hope, help to those with disabilities

Debra Struble is among those who devote a substantial chunk of personal time to make the lives of others a bit easier. Struble is working with the Christian nonprofit organization “Access-Life” to bring mobility to those who otherwise would have no access to wheelchairs and crutches.

The nonprofit quietly goes about the business of supplying needs while sharing the love of Christ through word and deed.

“We are all about ‘bridging the gap’ between individuals and families affected by disabilities and Christ honoring churches, organizations and people through wholesome and fun events and activities,” states the organization website, in part.

“We love seeing someone with a disability do something they never thought was possible; a parent of a child with special needs gets a chance to catch their breath and be renewed and even siblings of folks with disabilities receive a little special attention – all in Jesus’ name.”

Isolation has become a huge social issue for those with disabilities and their families, according to the website. The only time these individuals escape the confines of home is to work or run quick errands. They never take vacations or indulge in activities that could forge friendships and create a “sense of community.”

Access-Life has addressed these concerns by creating special programs and activities so that these families can experience the joy of associating with others. The Crafting Community Program allows those with similar life challenges to come together through shared interests in knitting, crocheting, scrap booking, jewelry making and cross stitching. The program also offers an assortment of crafting activities for kids.

The nonprofit believes that fishing is a great equalizer since just about anyone can participate in this sport. To this end, Access-Life has developed the Fishing with Friends Program. The Pro-Staff Team uses wrapped boats to support activities during events and camps held across the southeast. The program also hosts free Fish Grants for individuals and families with special needs.

The organization also offers the services of a team of diligent prayer partners.

Each year, the nonprofit holds a Life Support Banquet in East Tennessee to raise funds for the Expo and to support locally held Outpost Activities. The banquet features performances by individuals with disabilities and allows volunteers a platform in which to give their personal testimonies in relation to their time spent at the various Expos.

Nearly 650 people attended the 2018 Expo, held in East Tennessee. This year, the Expo will be held on Aug. 17 at the Cherokee Dam Park in Jefferson City. Donations of mobility items and medical supplies will be collected at this event in preparation for the annual mission trip to Belize.

In particular, the nonprofit can use donations of used but working manual and power wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes and bath aids. Donations might include unused gloves, bed pads, diapers, catheters and various formulas.

The items are then shipped each fall to Belize in preparation for distribution during the January mission trip.

In its newsletter, Access-Life describes the second day of its most recent trip to Belize.

“We arrived at Ms. Marcelina’s house early that morning to build her a ramp. Many on our team had met her last year and given her a cane…when she recognized us conversations started flowing like we had never left.

“…our team of construction workers began tearing down the old stairs and cutting, digging, drilling and measuring to erect a new two-story ramp that Ms. Marcelina could navigate as she went to church each week. As Ms. Marcelina walked down her new ramp using the rollator we gave her, she began to share with our team how she had been praying for help and how thankful she was that God had sent us to meet her needs. It was so humbling to think we were God’s answer to her prayer,” states the newsletter, in part.

Another woman, who had been the recipient of a ramp during the trip in 2016, had just lost a portion of her second leg, from the knee down. Instead of finding a “down-trodden” woman, the team found a “cheerful lady praising the Lord.”

According to the newsletter, the woman said she had just been praying that morning for help, but had no idea God would answer her prayer so quickly.

Struble will be collecting donations locally on Aug. 16, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., behind the New Tazewell City Hall building.

You may make monetary donations online at: www.access-life.org or by mailing your check, payable to Access-Life, Inc., to: P O Box 99; Altoona, Fl 32702.

All donations are tax-deductible.

The nonprofit, founded in 2010 by Doug and Leanne Goddard, is spearheaded by over 1,500 volunteers from across Tennessee, Florida and Texas. Since its founding, the Goddards have overseen nine trips to Belize alone.