By Ashley Perham
Baptist & Reflector
CLIFTON — Randall Runions, NAMB chaplain at the South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, has run a wheelchair refurbishment program at the prison since 2007. This November, his facility celebrated their 10,000th refurbished wheelchair.
The wheelchairs are distributed for free through Joni and Friends, Wheels For The World to people all over the world who need wheelchairs.
Wheels For The World works with other prisons, but South Central Correctional Facility has the largest program, Runions said.
Runions is in charge of two full-time staff members who oversee the 77 inmates working in the program.
“It’s kind of something that’s handed to me as a chaplain,” Runions said. “Anything religious falls under my umbrella. So I ended up with it, and I’ve taken it to the maximum.”
Runions said the program, which started with only 20 inmate employees, has expanded into a 14,500-square-foot factory with worktables, a part shop, a sewing department and quality control.
“Everything a normal factory would have, I have,” Runions said.
The dilapidated wheelchairs are donated by churches or other places that host pickup drives.
Runions, who is also the pastor of FBC Clifton, said he has the opportunity to see the refurbishment from the time the wheelchairs are brought in to the time they are handed out on mission trips.
“We go and do medical clinics down in Mexico,” Runions said. “They’re very, very poor people, and we get a chance to hand out wheelchairs.”
He said that he gives the Mexican people wheelchairs, and they provide him with transportation, meals and a hotel.
“They’ve been real good to us. They know my name when I go down there,” Runions said. “They always have a big to-do for us when we arrive because they’re so thankful for us.”
Runions talked about how happy people are to receive wheelchairs.
“It’s just the gift of mobility (that) changes a person completely. You’ve had no mobility and now you’re given mobility,” Runions said.
Runions said the people who go on the trips are primarily from his church, but he looks to anyone that has a gift to use, whether that be a barber, a doctor or a mechanic.
“When you’re coming and meeting somebody’s physical needs, you don’t just say, ‘Be warmed and filled,’ and walk off,” Runions said. “You have to meet that need. And that’s what we try to do, meet as many needs of the people as we can.”
Runions said that in the near future, wheelchair production at the plant is going to be “ramped up big time.”
In fact, next week, the number of inmate workers will increase to 103, he said.
To celebrate the 10,000th wheelchair, several state and local officials visited the facility to see how the operation runs.
Runions was also presented with the 2019 Gary Seabolt Award by Joni and Friends, Wheels For The World to recognize his work. B&R