Retirees' "PET" project gives lifeline to disabled

(CBS News) LEIGHTON, Iowa -- There's a quiet that usually settles over the corn fields of Iowa this time of year. But not in Leighton, population 150.

Here, two or three times a week, local retirees come together with a renewed purpose in their lives.

Bill Bruxvoort used to run one of the town's banks.

"It's just unbelievable how much response we've had. Almost more than we could handle," he says. "All retirees. And they all get paid the same. ... Nothing."

A Personal Energy Transportation, or PET.
A Personal Energy Transportation, or PET.
CBS News

They get paid nothing to create what are called PETs, short for Personal Energy Transportation, a hand-powered tricycle wagon designed for the disabled in the developing world.

"Those people would be just put away in a closet or bed somewhere, because it was deemed if you were disabled that you were cursed," Bruxvoort says. "That really touched my heart, and I thought, you know, there's something we should do about that."

His group is part of an international organization that has shipped the PETs to more than 85 countries.

The component parts are crafted at Bruxvoort's shop, then assembled, painted and shipped to Pete Verhey's on the other side of town.

"This machine allows them to go get water at the river, go to school if it's a child, you know, some of them use them to make a little bit of income," Verhey says. "You know, three dollars a day of income to someone in Haiti is huge."

Jevaleen Benjamin, of Haiti, had been getting around on a broken wheelchair -- until she received her new PET.
Jevaleen Benjamin, of Haiti, had been getting around on a broken wheelchair -- until she received her new PET.
CBS News

Ten-year-old Jevaleen Benjamin lives in Haiti, and she had been getting around on a broken wheelchair -- until she received her new PET.

And while it's 2,000 miles from Haiti to Leighton, Iowa, Bruxvoort says the tangible results of his work shorten the distance.

"I feel like we're not doing enough," he says. "I'd like to do more, but to be able to do something for other people is just so rewarding."

For these old men, generosity truly is its own reward.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.

Comments

Follow Us

On Twitter