By Alexander Germanis
A typical American’s morning usually includes getting out of bed, making one’s ablutions, eating breakfast, walking to the car, and driving to work. The ability to move in such automatic and simple ways is something so many of us take for granted, were one aspect of that mobility taken away, it would upset nearly everything else we tried to do.
But there are millions of Americans who understand all too well how the simplest of actions can be a challenge. For those one-in-seven Americans who have a mobility disability, Personal Mobility has been the answer for the last 20 plus years.
Three Generations and Counting
Family owned and operated, Personal Mobility is the labor of love of Gerry Davis and his wife Lu Ann. When their daughter, Charissa, was 15 years old, she suffered an asthma-related severe anoxic brain injury, leaving her unable to talk and unable to do anything for herself.
The need to take care of their daughter and fully understand how best to do it led Gerry and Lu Ann to found their company, making them not only owners of their own business, but customers of it as well. “Charissa requires most of the equipment that we provide,” Gerry shares.
Gerry and Lu Ann are not alone in their venture, however. Their son and daughter-in-law have both found work in the company. Their nephew works as a technician for them and even Lu Ann’s 87 year-old mother works for Personal Mobility. Gerry even foresees a fourth generation joining their ranks some day. “Our son and daughter-in-law have twin 6 year-old daughters who most likely one day will be working in the company as well,” he hopes.
There will certainly be room for the girls. In 2001, Personal Mobility operated out of one store and have since twice expanded—in 2012 and 2016—to locations in Peoria, Springfield, and Champaign.
Boasting a full line of BraunAbility mobility equipment and a whole line of lift manufacturers, Personal Mobility is a fully licensed elevator contractor in Illinois and Missouri, a licensed auto dealer, and service all their equipment from each of their three locations. They are also Quality Assurance Program certified through the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.
Move, Lift, and Serve
Not all mobility issues are the same and for that reason Personal Mobility is comprised of three divisions: automotive, rehab, and lift and elevator.
Their lift and elevator division, managed by Gerry’s son, Clint, regularly covers an area to the I-80 corridor and the Quad Cities to the north, to Quincy and the St. Louis area in the west, to Carbondale in the south, and to Danville in the east.
“In that division we install and rent stair lifts—custom and straight rails,” Gerry says. “We also do vertical platform or porch lifts as they’re commonly called. We do residential elevators in all different configurations and designs.”
“We do light commercial work,” he continues. “A lot of work in schools for wheelchair lifts and churches and other commercial buildings. But we’re big on residential.”
Lifts fit all types of configurations, Gerry explains, from overhead lifts to transfer lifts that can pick up a person in a sling or other apparatus and transfer them to a chair, bed, or anywhere else in a house along a track system.
In their automotive division, Personal Mobility sells and rents wheelchair-accessible minivans, full-size vans, pick-up trucks, and SUVs. “In that division we also provide driving controls such as the Sure-Grip System,” Gerry adds. “We have a full time tech at each location; everything we sell we service.”
Their rehab division consists of mobility equipment such as wheelchairs—both standard and custom—scooters, and walkers. Every location features a showroom of this equipment.
Personal Mobility is also proud to provide equipment and services to the Veteran’s Administration, Department of Human Services, and many more organizations.
The Extra Mile
Regularly covering most of Illinois and parts of Indiana, Missouri, and Iowa, Personal Mobility is willing and able to go as far as necessary to bring mobility to those who need it.
Going that extra mile or 200 is just a normal part of Gerry’s day. Whether he’s delivering a custom, wheelchair-accessible Honda Pilot to Rock Island or an accessible pick-up to southern Texas, Gerry is behind the wheel, making that delivery himself.
“This industry is not about a fly-by and drop-off at a person’s house,” Gerry insists. “People with disabilities have special needs.” Those needs must be met in a one-on-one way. In most cases, people require a degree of training in order to safely operate their new vehicle or equipment. That customer service touch is what bigger corporations and big tech companies are utterly lacking when it comes to selling mobility equipment.
Gerry insists on making sure his customers not only have that know-how, he won’t be satisfied until they are. It’s the closest thing he has to a hobby.
“I don’t hunt and I don’t fish and if I try to golf I waste the time of anybody who’s with me,” he jokes. “Delivering the trucks, vans, and equipment is kind of my ‘golf.’ I truly enjoy meeting people and making friends.”
Gracious and Grateful
On September 6, 1993, the Davis family’s lives were changed forever. When Charissa suffered her anoxic brain injury she went from a happy, hopeful teenager—counting down the days until she would be able to get her driver’s license—to a girl and now woman who is 100 percent dependent upon her parents for every aspect of survival.
“She lives with us in our house, goes to work with us, travels in one of our vans,” Gerry says. “Whenever we go to conferences—whether they’re in Dallas, Daytona, Oregon, or wherever—we have an accessible motor home and Charissa goes with us. She is what brought us to this business, which I would give up in a heartbeat to hear her say, ‘Hello, Dad.’”
For Gerry, any member of his family, or any one of the people they serve, it would be easy to be bitter. Gerry, instead, has experienced the complete opposite reaction. Charissa is their “guiding light,” he cheerfully shares.
And as for the people Gerry and his family serves, “They are the most gracious people you will come across,” he freely admits. “They take less for granted than people who are ambulatory.
Gerry’s experiences have certainly made him empathetic with those gracious people. “We were dumped into this whole thing and didn’t know what a wheelchair van was. There were a lot of things that were first times for us.”
Such is the case for many others who have gone from being independently mobile to immobile, sometimes—like Gerry’s daughter—literally overnight. It is for them and the love for his daughter he does what he does. They are why, after a full day at the office or in one of the stores, he buckles up and drives a truck several hundred miles to a customer who simply wants to be able to move again.
Gerry, his family, and their staff at Personal Mobility know they may not be able to perform miracles, but they are doing all they can to do the next best thing.
Personal Mobility has three locations in Illinois: 7611 North Harker Drive in Peoria, 2924 North Dirksen Parkway in Springfield, and 1109 Parkland Court in Champaign. Please visit us at www.personalmobilityinc.com or contact any one of our three locations in person so we can best assist you.
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