Norwich business owner gives away motorized wheelchairs to those in need

New London

NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH)– A Norwich businessman who gives away a hundred motorized wheelchairs every December is now doing things a little differently during the pandemic. The mission is still the same but it’s now done throughout the year.

Stephen Walkup was busy finishing up the last off the repairs on the six wheelchairs which were given away on Good Friday.

“I guess you can say I’m the head mechanic of these wheelchairs,” said Walkup.

A labor of love so to speak.

“All set ready to roll,” said Walkup after installing a battery on the final chair.

A-Z Pawn has refurbished and given away 800 of these motorized wheelchairs in the last 12 years.

“There are days that we give some away and at the end of the day I’m balling my eyes out because these people they deserve a chair,” said Walkup.

Owner Phil Pavone started this mission of giving to help those who cannot afford one of these chairs which can cost several thousand dollars.

“These are life changers,” said Pavone.

Many of them desperately need one. 

“These chairs are independence,” said Pavone.

The six new owners of the motorized wheelchairs soon arrived at his Norwich pawn shop. 78-year-old Ethel Haugland of Norwich is the first to try out her new set of wheels. She has eight staples in her head and a broken arm and elbow.

“It’s great because I’m falling all the time and I don’t want to…. If I fall again that’s the end of me,” said Haugland.

But now she and so many others have a new lease on life.

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Walter Affek told Pavone, as he gave him a hug from his new motorized wheelchair. The Norwich veteran is an amputee.

“It’s rare to see this in anyone’s lifetime,” said Affek.

If you take a look around the shop’s storage room you see dozens of chairs have already been refurbished and are ready for anybody who might need them. All year long Pavone takes donations but he also takes requests from people who want a chair.

People can call, email, or send a letter to A-Z Pawn.

“He’s a gift from God,” said Haugland.

But he no longer does it alone. Thanks to the generosity of others as well.

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