South Dakota Inmates Helping Build Wheelchairs for Children and Adults Overseas

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.- A non-profit ministry organization has become a hope haven for South Dakota prison inmates by giving them a chance to make a difference overseas, while they serve their time.

Inside of the men’s state prison sits Hope Haven wheelchair shop. The inside of the walls are rarely quiet from sewing to cleaning parts, these men work.

“I clean all the parts, I get rid of all the excess dirt,” says inmate Robert Thompson.

And the men don’t take their job lightly.

“My work means a lot to a lot of people out there. So why would I do sloppy work? No, I want to do good work,” says inmate Jeffrey Howard.

The job they do is more than the 25 cents per hour they earn Monday through Friday.

“Told me what my payroll was, I said, all this and you pay me for it too,” says Thompson, as he laughs.

“It’s wonderful knowing that these children will receive what we put together. Just knowing that God’s will is being done, in the work that we did,” says Howard.

Most of the men in here are not just serving their time, they are giving back to people in underdeveloped countries by manufacturing and creating wheelchairs for children and adults.

“They have a compassion for kids they really do,” says Hope Haven Director of Church & Public Relations, Marlowe Van Ginkel.

Their dedication is written all over their eyes. For 22 years, the prison and Hope Haven have been working together to be a safe haven for those in need.

“To help these families, these children, give them a wheelchair. So they have an opportunity to go to school, get an education, and hopefully uplift their lives,” says Van Ginkel.

Although the circumstances of why these men are in here can’t be changed, they know, they can be a change and make a difference.

“I realize God is using me right where I am at. I mean, I don’t want to just sit back and vegetate. I want to be able to do something for somebody, even in prison, we can do that,” says Howard.

Many times the organization shows the men how much of a blessing they are, but in the end, they say they are the ones that are blessed.

“Basically the work itself and what we get to do here and what we are doing it for,” says Thompson. 

The non-profit ministry organization has distributed 125,000 wheelchairs to children and adults in 108 countries, all for free. The organization collects refurbished wheelchairs and is also in need of sponsors. To learn more about the organization or to donate, visit their website:

Categories: Community, Local News, News

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