Note: An in-depth look at how a Shawnee man turned a kind deed into a ministry. In five years, Jim Kinnamon has refurbished and given away 1,500 motorized wheelchairs, as well as other medical supplies and equipment.
It all started when he saw a need and then sought to fill it.
Jim Kinnamon said several years ago, when he was downtown cleaning up an alley, he came across a woman struggling really hard to push a man with no legs in a wheelchair.
They were homeless, he said; there was no way for them to have access to a motorized wheelchair — still, he thought, there had to be a better way.
It's been five years since that first couple received a gift that was once out of their grasp; and Kinnamon and his wife, Debbie, are still filling that need for others — only now on a much bigger scale, and at a spirited pace.
Kinnamon said he has given chairs and other supplies to veterans and children who have been waiting for the equipment for up to 18 months.
“There's no reason for them to have to wait that long,” he said. “They can't afford to wait.”
Kinnamon started Amazing Grace Medical Equipment — which takes new or used donated hospital equipment and refurbishes it to give to people who cannot afford it. What started out as fixing motorized chairs soon became many supplies in the health care field: walkers, diapers, tracheotomy kits, nebulizers, oxygen equipment, protein drinks, braces, shower and potty chairs, baby formula, and so on.
Along with giving away an average of 18 motorized chairs per month, the Kinnamons are filling needs for free to around 80 to 100 people a month, which takes a lot of equipment and supplies — much of which comes from lots of donors.
One of Kinnamon's biggest donors, Oklahoma Durable Medical Equipment Reuse Program (OKDMERP) — sponsored through Oklahoma ABLE Tech — helps out with about nine wheelchair batteries per month. Kinnamon said batteries can cost around $130, which makes them a big ticket item — and hard to fund.
Kinnamon said he became a battery dealer just so he could get batteries a little easier. His partnership with OKDMERP was part of a pilot program that is only utilized in three states.
“We joined them early on,” he said. “We help each other out.”
He said there aren't very many programs like it.
Other local groups who help out are the Shawnee Mission and the Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army is happy to assist and aide organizations like Amazing Grace in meeting the needs of those struggling with physical challenges, injuries or disabilities, Salvation Army Shawnee Capt. Jamie Clay said.
“We are willing to work within the community to best serve all in need,” Clay said.
Kinnamon said the best way to find them is through Facebook; his operation does everything through its Facebook page.
“I stay really busy day and night working on the chairs; I don't have enough time to figure out how to build a website, even though I'd like one,” he said.
He just keeps his focus on filling the needs of those who request his help on Facebook.
He said he gets calls or messages around the clock.
“People call and ask how much something costs,” he said, “but everything we give out is free.”
He said he's thankful for all the volunteers who have helped through the years.
At the level of serving he does now, he said he can't do what he does without the generosity of others.
“There are big hearts everywhere,” he said.
Kinnamon said there are people who bring donations all the time, like when a lady pulled up to his shop with a carload of stuff and just starting unloading it.
“There's a couple of brothers and a sister in their teens who live next door who have helped from the start,” he said. “They come over and organize and straighten up the warehouse.”
Volunteers from Aydelotte Baptist Church also help out.
“There's a lady who takes prosthetic limbs to Oklahoma City, and she does a free clinic when we get medical supplies.”
Kinnamon's warehouse is packed and equipment lines the outside of the building, wrapping around the sides.
“There's billions of dollars in equipment just sitting around somewhere,” Kinnamon said.
“We don't have to buy a lot,” he said. “I can usually rewire them and make parts fit other chairs.”
He said he has some programmers he uses to reset them to make them operational.
One spot just outside his door held a pile of parts ready for removal.
“Nothing goes to waste,” he said. “When I have determined that a chair won't work or parts are no good, I strip it of anything useful and Ball Pipe & Supply hauls the scrap off for me.”
He said the money for the scrap goes toward Ball Pipe's annual Shop With a Cop fundraiser.
Kinnamon said when flooding devastated Baton Rouge, they loaded up everything in his warehouse in about an hour and a half and took it down there.
“It didn't take any time at all for my warehouse to fill right back up,” he said.
Kinnamon said it's a good feeling to watch a child work his or her new chair for the first time, as he scrolled on his phone through dozens of pictures and videos of people his outreach has helped.
“We know the name of every child we've given a chair to,” he said. “We get to be a part of that — when they take their first step, whether it be crawling, walking or scooting.”
In the 1,500-plus motorized chairs he's given out he knows a wheelchair's worth — and it's not in the millions of dollars that they represent — it's the solution to a need, a need that is very overlooked, he said.
Kinnamon will drop everything and travel all over to get or give what he needs to continue the effort.
“We put a lot of miles on that van,” he laughed. “I have to fill the tank about twice a week.”
He's helped kids in schools in the area, like Henryetta, Choctaw and McLoud; and he makes trips to the VA hospital in Sulphur, and to Ardmore.
He's traveled to Altlanta, Georgia; Wichita, Kansas; Houston, and Longview, Texas, among others to pick up or drop off equipment.
There are at least 10 nursing homes in the county, and beyond, that Amazing Grace supports, as well as many hospice groups.
A group of people come from Duncan about four times a year, he said.
“They compile a list of what people are needing, and then they come and get it,” he said. “They just don't have any resources down there.”
Kinnamon said they also help out fur friends.
“If something's on the verge of ruin and we still have it, we give it away, like baby formula or dialysis fluids to local veterinarians, so they don't go bad and get wasted,” he said.
There are old standing frames and things too antiquated for human use anymore that we've given out for dogs to use,” he said. “They love it.”
Kinnamon said he invites the public and those working in the health care field to visit his shop so they can see what they have and how the operation functions — it also helps everyone better understand what donations are needed most and how to work together.
To volunteer or donate to Amazing Grace, visit its Facebook page by searching for Amazing Grace or call (405) 637-4328.
You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.