Keeping his clients’ wheels turning is personal for mobility minister

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

The Rev. Jerry Lee Williams (right) of Heart to Heart Ministries hopes to replace the stolen motorized scooter of Jeffrey Elswick (left).

Sunday Times Newspapers

MELVINDALE — The Rev. Jerry Lee Williams knows what it’s like to be immobile.

That’s why he started Heart to Heart Ministries, whose clients include elderly cancer patients and people who cannot afford mobility aids and whose needs have fallen through cracks in the system.

“This is on my heart,” he said. “I know what it is to be sick. I know what it is to be not walking. I did that when I had a motorcycle accident. I know what it is to relearn and rewalk.

Williams lost a 38-year-old brother because of health concerns, and equipment was not approved for him until a month before he died.

“This is why I have become an advocate for the seniors and the people who are medically ‘not able,’” he said.

Jeffrey Elswick, 43, has chronic leg pain after three major surgeries. His motorized scooter was stolen from the garage of a house he had rented in Lincoln Park. Since then he has moved to Melvindale to find a lower rent rate.

Representatives of the store that supplied his original scooter said Elswick did not file a police report in a timely manner and would not replace it. He currently uses a walker he got from a hospital visit to get around.

“My passion is people like Jeff,” Williams said.

Lincoln Park police advised Elswick to sue the owner of the house to recover the cost of his scooter, but said he didn’t want to do that because the owner isn’t at fault. Elswick said Medicare officials had told him there was no time limit for scooter replacement, so he didn’t move as fast as he might have to file the report.

Medicare officials also gave him telephone numbers of other scooter suppliers, but Elswick said he was unable to get help from them.

“Here’s the thing: He can’t wait,” said Williams, who often hears of frustration and dead ends from many of the people his ministry helps. “He needs to move around. So we are going to get him a motorized wheelchair. I have one that I could possibly buy within the week, but we’re not going to make him wait for one.

“We need help for people like him, and cancer patients. They should not have to go through all this political, bureaucratic crap. They should automatically be able to get them so that they can live. This guy’s got to be in 10 times the amount of pain because he’s trying to get around with the walker.”

Elswick falls frequently with his walker, but said using a cane is “even more agonizing.” He needs to get around so he can to do everyday tasks like grocery shopping with his children.

“If it wasn’t for Heart to Heart Ministries, I don’t know what I would do,” Elswick said.

“The first thing I said when he called was, ‘We’re going to help you.’” Williams said. “I don’t have anything in stock right now, but we’re going to help you.”

While he did have a better walker for Elswick, Williams’ goal is to get him a motorized wheelchair or scooter.

“If I can’t get it through the people in the community, then I will do what I’ve done so many times,” Williams said, “I will take it out of my pocket and I will get him something shortly.”

In the past two months Heart to Heart has distributed more than 79 wheelchairs, four to people at Melvindale’s Coogan Terrace, a high-rise senior and handicapped public housing apartment building.

In the past year Heart to Heart Ministries also has helped people with medication, food and rides.

“I don’t want to say ‘no’ to anyone,” Williams said. “They don’t need that pain in their life.

And he’s not letting the cost of easing that pain stand in his way.

“We’re in the hole,” Williams said. “I don’t care how deep we get. We’re going to do whatever we can. “God said, ‘Let us unite together as a family and help one another.’ As Jesus helped those in his day, we are called to help those in our day.”

He said visits Lansing regularly to express his concerns to Michigan legislators about restrictions that government-funded health care is putting on the disabled and senior citizens.

Anyone interested in donating can call (313) 573-9076 or (313) 381-0090. Checks may be made out to Heart to Heart Ministries, 3501 Oakwood Blvd., No. 317, Melvindale MI 48122.

For more information go to and click on the Big Heart Foundation icon.