John 14:1: “Let not your heats be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
Each day, as I walk through the Henry J. Carter Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility, I am humbled, honored, and amazed. What started as a tiny idea of raising money to buy a few wheelchairs for Goldwater patients has evolved into an organization that I never could have imagined.
In 1973 I began to visit my friend Al (Tjader) Fogle, who was a patient at Goldwater. By 1974, the idea of Wheelchair Charities had begun, and that year we held our first charity basketball game to raise money to purchase sports wheelchairs for the patients on Goldwater’s Young Adult Ward. The first electric chairs were purchased by Wheelchair Charities in 1979, thanks to a generous donation of $400.000. Those 12 chairs had not tilt, no recline, and no electric legs.
Wheelchair technology changed rapidly. On the next purchase, the chairs had some recline, electric legs, more speed, larger wheels, and enabled the user to go places. They also added a “Gimble Rack” for portable ventilators. The electric chairs were life-changing, and instrumental in the residents’ reintegration into the community. As technology changed, Wheelchair Charites kept up. We eventually went directly to the manufacturer, working with them to develop and produce new technologies.
In 1985, we purchased computers for the Children’s Unit, C11 and C12. Portable laptop computers were provided so that the children could go to school and take part in ESL and GED programs. In 1988, Wheelchair Charities branched out and began purchasing specialty mattresses. The high tech mattresses help prevent pressure ulcers (bed Sores), a constant worry for wheelchair-bound patients.
In 1994, the first Computer Lab was opened at Goldwater. The Computer Lab was a huge asset. Patients/residents could get hands-on computer training, could do research, develop cover letters, and apply for the jobs. In 1995, 25 computers were purchased for Coler, and they received exactly the same services as Goldwater. For children in school who were going out daily, laptops were provided. We provided state-of-the-art computer equipment for both facilities every two years. We further enhanced the patients’ lives by the purchase of buses and vans and funding the construction of a Greenhouse.
In late November 2013, the doors of Goldwater Hospital – the place where Wheelchair Charities was born – closed for good. In December 2013, the opening of a hospital in Harlem that bears my name became a reality.
We’ve reached a great milestone – 45 years! I never dreamed Wheelchair Charities Inc. would raise more money than any other charity in the United States benefiting municipal hospitals and health care facilities. As a young man growing up in Queensbridge, I certainly never dreamed that one day there would be a hospital in New York City with my name over the door. It was truly God.
In March of 2018, my friend, Al (Tjader) Fogle was called to the Heavens above. He will always be in my heart. He is truly missed.
I am grateful to the many volunteers who have helped us over the years and who have given their time, energy and care to assist us. Since the very beginning, no one has ever received a salary. I thank all of you for doing your part to help the people in wheelchairs, and pray that you will continue to be part of Wheelchair Charities, and support our important-and much needed – mission of healing.
God Bless You,
Henry (Hank) Carter