The rhythm of the sewing machine is kind of like the rhythm of Tim Owens' life. Every stitch connects the pieces of something bigger.
"The sleeves will fit here," Owens explained, "and then it will just be a little baby shirt. It will go in the diaper bag and distributed to an indigent mother."
Helping others is his routine. Owens was ready to deliver his handmade items to charity, as he does every week, until Thursday morning, when thieves stopped him in his tracks. They stole
his link to the outside world: his wheelchair ramp.
"I opened the door and the ramp was gone," Owens said.
Owens suffers from HIV and now neuropathy. It's taken away his ability to walk.
"The pain in my legs becomes very bad,” he said.
So he needs his electric wheelchair to get around.
"Without the ramp, the chair doesn't work," Owens explained.
There is a market for clean aluminum. A wheelchair ramp like Owens' could fetch up to $30 at a scrap yard.
Owens says he doesn't know who would stoop so low. A thief's quest for an easy buck is costing him time he doesn't have.
"My life's on a time table now. And I lose a day and that's an important loss,” said Owens. “They didn't take a wheelchair ramp. They took part of me.”
Word of the theft quickly spread to Owens' neighbors.
"We've been having a lot of trouble in this block, in this area, really," said Roland Vasquez, who lives across the street. Vasquez wants to put his welder fitter skills to work and build him a new ramp.
For Tim Owens that connection is everything.
"I try to live as independently as I can and they've taken my independence away," he said.
The local Machinists Union heard about the theft. They got in contact with Owens and are putting together a team of volunteers who specialize in making custom wheelchair ramps.