Outside Don Shew’s Soil Supply in Huntersville, a group of men wrestle with a 200-pound tractor engine as they try to center it on a wooden pallet. “It ain’t on it,” grunts one of the men, while another wonders out loud if it’s time to get a hoist.Some 25 miles away in Belmont, several children are facing a very different kind of challenge. They’re all residents of Holy Angels, a nonprofit that provides a loving home and care for children and adults with severe mental and physical disabilities. On this particular day they’re trying to touch buttons on a machine to signal their choice of colors for rocks they’ll paint and place in a garden.“Most of the people we serve are not able to speak,” explains Jennifer Sheely, vice president of Holy Angels. The two hard-working groups, light years apart in life situations, are nevertheless linked in an extraordinary way. Every year since 1997, a group of volunteers called the Power of the Past Antique Tractor Club has gotten together to tear down and rebuild an “angel tractor” which is then raffled off to pay for rehab equipment, dance costumes, musical instruments, gardening tools and other items for the Holy Angels residents. This year’s raffle is scheduled for Oct. 14, during Cotton Ginning Days, a festival and parade in Dallas. A Holy Angles resident, surrounded by family and friends, will draw the winning ticket.Consisting of about 40 members, the tractor club has over the years raised nearly $190,000 for Holy Angels, which is home to about 80 children and adults. One of the most significant gifts the volunteers have given Holy Angels is the money to build a therapeutic room for relaxation and sensory stimulation, says president and CEO Regina Moody. Here, among soft music, columns of rotating and lighted bubbles and a hammock-like chair, friends and family members can visit loved ones in a calm, relaxing atmosphere, which does wonders for the residents’ developmental and coping abilities and overall mood. “Holy Angels is about so much more than providing for physical needs,” Sheely says. “It’s about the quality of life.”This year’s angel tractor is a bright red 1951 Massey-Harris Pony with yellow wheels. It looks sparkly and cool now, but it certainly didn’t start out that way. A group of tractor club volunteers spent months in the back room of Shew’s soil supply shop slowly piecing it together, restoring the 4-cylinder engine, gears, brakes, transmission and other parts, and putting a fresh coat of paint on it. While it was hard work, the men enjoyed plenty of good times and camaraderie during the building process, cooking hot dogs and shooting the breeze. While the volunteers work in a variety of fields, including software design, retail sales, industrial machinery and law enforcement, they all have one thing in common. “They know tractors backward and forward,” says Sheely.Over the years volunteers have restored tractors dating back to 1939, some of which had been sitting outside for decades. “Sometimes the bolts are rusted so hard it’s almost impossible to get them off,” says club president Dick Lorey of Huntersville. The Power of the Past Antique Tractor Club picked Holy Angels to be the beneficiary of the tractor raffles because two of its members, Ron and Janice Bozardt of Charlotte, had a granddaughter, Sarah, who lived at the Belmont facility until she passed away in 2007.“Holy Angels was a gift from God,” Janice Bozardt says. “I could see how they loved the children.”In addition to the annual angel tractor raffle, Power of the Past Tractor Club members also take Holy Angels residents out for boat rides and picnics, and at Christmas they get to ride in Belmont’s holiday parade in a wagon pulled by the Angel Tractor.Club members and their wives, who sell tickets during the summer at festivals and tractor shows, hope this year’s raffle pushes their total contributions to Holy Angels over $200,000. But Sheely says whatever the total is, they will ultimately reap far more than just money. “Every ticket they sell educates somebody about Holy Angels.”
To purchase a raffle ticket, go to www.johndeere40.com/AngelTractor.htm, or send a or SSA envelope to:Power of the Past Tractor ClubP.O. Box 2244Huntersville, N.C. 28078The raffle prize is $2,000 or the 1951 Massey-Harris Pony Tractor
The raffle drawing is scheduled for Oct. 14 during Cotton Ginning Days. The event will be held at Dallas Park, 1303 Dallas-Cherryville Hwy., Dallas, N.C.
Information: 704-604-6285Tickets are $1, 6 for $5 and 15 for $10.