Ed “30 Years Ago”
How do you describe a hero? When asked to write a story for our e-newsletter about FODAC’s founder, Ed Butchart, I began with the abbreviated story that had been passed down through our organization’s history.
Ed and his wife, Annie, started a service in their garage where they would refurbish and repair wheelchairs and give them away to those who couldn’t afford them. Impressed by the work they were doing, Jack Ballard, then the senior minister of Mount Carmel Christian Church, offered to provide financial support. In 1986, the Butcharts formally incorporated Friends of Disabled Adults (FODA) as a stand‐alone Georgia nonprofit entity and in November 1987 FODA was ruled a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization by the IRS.
This story needed a little more ZING! Well, just as the Lord puts the “right people in our paths” when we need them most, he set me on a path that uncovered a treasure chest of old letters addressed to Ed…letters from Georgia, Virginia, California, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Alabama, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee. They were from the days when people still hand-wrote letters; most referenced an NBC News story done in December 1992 by Bob Dotson.
As I pored over the old letters it was clear to see that Ed’s passion and his generous heart were felt by thousands who watched the NBC News story. Bob Dotson talked about “Santa Butchart” the ex-Marine, who scrounged parts to build wheelchairs for those who could afford them. Most of the letters mentioned the TV broadcast and thanked Ed for the wheelchairs he was building for people with disabilities. The outpouring of letters and financial support that followed NBC’S story were truly amazing!
Even more amazing was the route the letters took to be delivered. Tom Brokaw forwarded some sent to him. One letter was addressed “Dear Postal People: I HOPE YOU CAN FIND THIS MAN SO HE CAN BE THANKD FOR ALL HE IS DOING FOR THE NEEDY. Mr. Ed Butchart, Wheelchair Maker for the Underprivileged, Stone Mountain, Georgia.” At least 10 were addressed simply to “Wheel Chair Santa, Stone Mountain, GA” (Well, one tried to put Stone Mountain in North Carolina, but the postal people found Ed!)
Ten years after FODA’s inception the organization changed its name to FODAC (Friends of Disabled Adults and Children). The new name reflected the desire to reach out to all people with disabilities, regardless of age, even though FODAC had already been working with children for years.
At FODAC’s 30th Anniversary event I had the pleasure of meeting Ed. When I asked about his vision for FODAC he simply said, “I did not have a vision — I just saw a need and went to work to fill that need.”
From its humble beginnings in 1986, Ed’s concept grew in size and scope, adding vehicle and home modifications, the use of assistive and computerized technology, and a Thrift Store to help finance operations. The organization now fills its current 65,000 square foot facility in the Stone Mountain Industrial Park. Ed passed on the leadership in 2001 to the current Chief Executive Officer, Chris Brand, who has helped guide FODAC through tremendous growth and expansion of services and scope to become what is now a national best practice program and the largest domestic distributor of used Home Medical Equipment. Ed’s legacy continues as FODAC has stayed focused on helping people of all ages who are disabled by providing wheelchairs and other home medical equipment to children and adults. We continue his vision “to fill the need.”
If you want to be a part of this great work, please go to our website to make a gift. (click here) Thank you for allowing us to share our beginnings…please be a part of today’s continued work.
Pat Sabatelle, Development Director