Jeremiah 17:7 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.”
In the mid-1960s, young Henry (Hank) Carter had no idea that God would lead him down a path of healing through fundraising. Growing up in the tough Queensbridge section of Queens, NY, Hank traded city life for jungle life, and was sent to Vietnam. In the army, he rose to Sergeant and was awarded a Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal and other military honors. When his tour ended in 1968, Hank returned to his Queensbridge neighborhood and found that it had been ravaged by violence and drugs.
After Vietnam, Hank began working as a teller in a bank. In 1970, through the Jacob Riis Community Center, he started an organization in his spare time known as United Queens. The intent was to get kids involved in basketball and get them off the streets and away from a life of crime, and fight the drug dealers.
Over the years, Wheelchair Charities has purchased more than 560 motorized wheelchairs of which 100 of them were purchased in 2009. Additionally, they have funded 10 specially equipped buses, augmentative machines, color televisions and modified beds for the Coler-Goldwater Hospital. The facility's Vocational Rehab Computer Lab is equipped with millions of dollars worth of computer hardware and software, and new equipment costing $150-200,000 is purchased every other year. They have raised funds to build a weight room and a greenhouse within the facility.
Many of the wheelchairs are motorized and can cost as much as $36,000 each. Each chair is specially adapted to meet the needs of the individual patient. Ninety-nine percent of the wheelchairs in the hospital were purchased by his organization. "People would come here and sometimes have to wait a year for a motorized chair," Carter said. "Some of them would be trapped in their beds. Now, we can usually get them in a chair within a few days."
With the help of an expanding family of sponsors, donors and volunteers over the last 37 years, the aim and reach of WCI has expanded to encompass bettering the lives of not only current but also former paraplegic and quadriplegic patients. Considering that together Hank Carter and WCI have donated over $16 million worth of equipment and an immeasurable amount of time and energy to the Coler-Goldwater Facility, it is nearly impossible to find a wing or a floor of the hospital unmarked by Mr. Carter's compassion and generosity. In 2004, the New York Health and Hospitals Corporation voted unanimously to rename the Hospital's Department of Rehabilitative Medicine the Henry "Hank" Carter Rehabilitation Center-making it the first time a living person had such a distinction.
Hank, who retired as senior executive vice president of the Long Island Savings Bank, remains humble and grounded, knowing fully that he is an instrument of God, and that the Lord is the one who should get all the credit for Wheelchair Charities’ success. He is a man of deep faith, and believes that all that has happened is part of God’s plan.