Columbia — A little over a 100 people came Sunday to Personal Energy Transportation project’s open house and interfaith blessing to open its new store. The Rev. Mel West started the organization in 1995 and remains active in running it.
“PET is a faith-based but broadly ecumenical work,” West said. “The PET is not Jewish, Christian, Muslim or any other faith. It is not Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative. It is simply an instrument of the God of all of us to be used to relieve the pain and injustices suffered by multiplied millions of people all over the world. This facility and those who work in it will receive the spiritual blessing of the three major faith groups that exist where PETs are distributed.”
PET project was started in 1995 in a Columbia garage and is now helping people in 61 countries. PET is an interfaith organization that helps people in developing countries who have been injured or have never walked. They provide hand-cranked or lever-powered vehicles, which are sturdy and come in an adult and a child version. Volunteers from around the country send in parts, wheels and brakes to be used by volunteers to make and ship these vehicles.
“A friend of mine at my church got me involved in this great organization,” Richard Campbell of Hallsville said. “It is strictly volunteer and only once a week for a few hours. I rout and sand the wood that my friend Charlie cuts to make the body of the PETs.”
The event was held in the new 6,000-square-foot shop and warehouse at 1908 Heriford Road. The organization held an open house along with the blessing to show people where their money is going and how the PETs are made. After the room had filled with people, the blessing took place from Rabbi Yossi Feintuch from Beth Shalom, Shakir Hamoodi from the Muslim community, and the Rev. Otto Steinhaus, Bishop Robert Schnase and West from the Christian community.
“I was invited to participate in the blessing today by Rev. Steinhaus,” Feintuch said. “I would love to see my congregation get involved financially or otherwise. I was moved when I first came to get a tour of the facility last week. It was amazing to see all these people who were doing things for people they would likely never meet or get any thanks from, but do this out of the kindness of their hearts.”
PET is not the only thing going on in the building. Other projects include refurbishing sewing machines to send to the Red Cross to go into Mexico; building wooden toy tops and cars that go out with child-sized PETs; and the Rainbow Network, which sorts and gathers clothes to send to Springfield to go to people in need all over the world.