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East L.A.’s Wheelchair Wash lifts spirits and brings communities together

Photo by C.J. Salgado

Lining up for a wheelchair wash | Photo by C.J. Salgado

By C.J. SALGADO

EAST LOS ANGELES — Sunday at the East L.A. Civic Center was a perfect summer day for relaxing in the park, fishing in the lake or getting your wheelchair washed. Yes, wheelchairs need a good scrubbing now and then, and the 12th Annual Wheelchair Wash found volunteers providing a free cleaning as part of a day-long health and community resources fair.

A large, inflatable wheelchair greeted visitors to the day-long event presented by Familia Unida, an East L.A. nonprofit that provides programs and services to those living with multiple sclerosis and other disabilities. Founded in the early 1990s by Irma Resendez, Familia Unida put together the event with community partners to bring a little love, attention and care to those it serves. Activities included free washing of wheelchairs, food, haircuts, manicures, and live entertainment.

It took lots of volunteers to pull it off, resulting in many smiling guests and shiny wheelchairs. Eddie Torres, President of the East L.A. Chamber of Commerce, noted that attendance was lighter than in years past, when two- or three thousand people would show up in the past.  Still, volunteers were kept busy. In fact, student volunteers from the Professional Institute of Beauty in El Monte were out in force providing free haircuts and manicures to the many the guests who lined up. Despite the many volunteers, there was a little bit of a wait but in the end, everyone was looking good.

Others waited in line to get their wheelchairs washed and lubricated, thanks to many volunteers, including those from the Hungry Goats, a culinary social club and charitable organization.

Why is this important? Familia Unida founder Resendez said that even a simple act like washing a person’s wheelchair can often “lift that person’s spirit.”

Resendez also said that those with disabilities often feel isolated, so providing a day of pampering for them by bringing communities together was a way to give unconditional love while raising awareness of the needs and abilities of those living with MS and other disabilities.

Inflatable wheel chair at the Civic Center entrance | Photo by C.J. Salgado

Inflatable wheel chair at the Civic Center entrance | Photo by C.J. Salgado

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