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Pay It Forward: Veteran wheelchairs for veterans

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A local Vietnam Veterans of America group, led by a vet himself, is giving back to veterans and their families in a unique way. The man behind the curtain, or storage door in the case, is Bob Reinisch. He is the president of local chapter 972 of the V.V.A. He and his group of nearly 20 volunteers are collecting motorized wheelchairs and scooters to give to veterans in need.

"Deserving veterans, their spouses or their children," said Reinisch.

The project has only been going about four months, but it's really taking off.

"Right now we've been accepting wheelchairs from Boise, Pocatello, Rexburg, as far as Salt Lake City, Utah. However, we've got requests to donate wheelchairs from all over the United States, Albany, New York, Vermont, Fargo North Dakota, even Hawaii and I've got plenty of volunteers to go pick up the chair from Hawaii," said Reinisch.

From there, DeeRay's Autobody in Shelley does the refurbishment free of charge.

"We'll defray any cost that are incurred," said Reinisch.

That includes the final touches from Walker's Upholstery. Brett Waters is one those who restores the chairs from start to finish.

"Just a really good feeling. It really makes you happy and you see their faces," said Waters.

"Oh, it's so tremendously emotional. We've got people that said, 'I've been bed-ridden for months and now I have my mobility back.' We've got another Marine at the veteran's home that was recently an amputee. His whole family was there for his 92nd birthday and we presented him with a wheelchair on the same day and the whole family was in tears," said Reinisch.

One of the chair recipients is Shane Ackerschott, a former National Guard soldier who is now adjusting to living without the use of his legs.

"If this man does this all in the kindness of his heart, he's truly a saint, I mean to do this, cause there's a lot of vets out there who can't afford things like this," said Ackerschott.

The group is involving Shelley High School students as senior projects. The goal is to get more young people interested in helping.

"Yes, the reason for that is the interchange between generations and to instill the sense of patriotism that's being lost," said Reinisch.

Replacing batteries is the biggest expense, they're $75 to $125 each, and there is gas and wear and tear for pickup and delivery, all offset only by donations.

Maybe Eyewitness News can help.

"I'm wondering what's going on," said Reinisch when extra people started showing up.

"Bob, how are you?" said Kory Carling with Mountain America Credit Union.

"I'm doing well my friend. How about you?" said Reinisch.

"Good. I'm Kory with Mountain America Credit Union. We been touched with what you're doing for the vets in the area. We would like to pay it forward and help you out. I brought with me today, $500 cash," said Carling.

"Oh bless your heart," said Reinisch.

"We hope it will help you continue to further your cause and make a difference for your fellow vets," said Carling.

"You've got me in tears almost," replied Reinisch. "Bless your heart. Thank you so much."

"We appreciate what you're doing," said Carling. "It's our pleasure."

"Ah, bless your heart. Thank you so much. We'll put it to good use. It's a very rewarding project for us already. We're truly blessed and we're amazed at the generosity of the people of Idaho Falls and the community. It's just incredible. We appreciate it so much. Thank you," said Reinish.

"Absolutely. It's our pleasure to be a part of it with you," said Carling.

If you have a motorized wheelchair that you could donate or would like to make a monetary donation, Bob can be reached at 208-541-4809.

Pay It Forward will air the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone that deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on 'Pay It Forward' off to the right side of our website and fill out the form, or send an email to Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz at tkunz@kidk.com.

Todd Kunz

Todd Kunz

Todd is an anchor for KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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