Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Q&A with Tom Boman at CReATE

photo of Tom Boman
Tom Boman

CReATE lab coordinator reflects on success in Salt Lake City

Recently, the people at CReATE in Salt Lake City finished a month for the record books by providing 25 devices to people who need them. We asked Tom Boman, the CReATE coordinator, to tell us more.

You had a record-breaking month. Tell me more about it: were the 25 devices you transferred to clients mostly electric wheelchairs?

There was a variety of mobility devices transferred: five power wheelchairs, one scooter, 14 manual wheelchairs, four wheel walkers (rollators), and a wheelchair carrier.  In past years CReATE has almost exclusively focused on power wheelchairs, but we’ve tried to slowly expand our offerings and it’s worked out much better than we’d expected.

How does this compare to the volume of devices transferred a year ago? Two years ago?

In 2015 we transferred an average of 13.1 devices per month, and in 2014 it was 9.8.  Our 2016 monthly average is 20.4. 

What difference do these devices make to the people you serve? Is there a recent example that stands out to you?

It’s quite common for some of the mobility devices we transfer to almost become an extension of people’s bodies.  It can become part of their identity and an integral part of their independence.   We recently refurbished a power wheelchair for a lady that enabled her to continue her work on a medical assembly production line.  The power seat on her previous chair stopped working and she spent months not being able to change her body position for her 10-hour shifts.  The power wheelchair we worked on for her has power rehabilitation seating that enables her to elevate herself up to the correct height, and to vary her body position throughout the workday to help eliminate fatigue and injury.  Seeing that type of direct impact on people’s lives makes this work very rewarding for all of us.

Have you had to make changes in the shop to do this much more business?

Wow, where do I begin…?  There have been a lot of changes in the past three years I’ve been here.  If you’d seen the shop before then and saw it again now, the thing that would probably strike you the most is the level of organization.  We have more than doubled the warehouse racking and added a lot of special parts racks, storage bins, totes, and cabinets to store all the wheelchair parts.  You’d also probably notice that we have a lot more wheelchairs and other mobility devices packed inside the shop.  There’s just not much open space at all, and we have to resort to storing some devices outside.  We also have a lot more tools than we used to, and we’ve worked hard to keep them organized and readily accessible.   New workbenches with a custom-built wheelchair hoist have also helped us get the devices at a comfortable level for the work we do.  A custom-developed MS Access database has enabled us to consolidate all of the information on our client contacts and the all of the devices we have in inventory.  Finally, and most importantly, is the addition of the eight different volunteers that help us out to the tune of 30-50 hours each week.  Our volunteers are the best, and they make a big difference in what we are able to provide the community.

What role do those volunteers play?

Volunteers are absolutely critical to our work here.  Our ability to provide this level of service is due in large part to them. They come from different backgrounds and offer us their unique perspectives on the challenges that we face here at CReATE.  They help at almost every level of work we do here; from refurbishing complex power wheelchairs to scrapping out wheelchairs to cleaning the shop and organizing parts.  

How could the public help you carry on CReATE’s mission?

We can always use more donated devices and more volunteer help.  We have a lot, but are always in need of more devices and parts to be able to help our clientele.  Their need is constant so ours is as well. Volunteers that willing to return on a regular basis can really help us out.  People can also help spread the word about CReATE.  Occasionally we have clients that cannot cover the cost of our modest service fees and cannot secure funding through normal channels.  If someone would like to help cover those costs, that would not only help our clients but would also help us to “keep the lights on” and to continue to serve the community.

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