It seems a simple concept. Easy access from a home to the outside world. When a disability interferes, this simple exercise can prove to be a frustrating impediment. Thanks to a faithful group of community volunteers, led by Ray Rowell of Clarkesville, this challenge is being addressed – one ramp at a time.
Eight volunteers from Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church and Clarkesville First United Methodist Church, on Aug. 29, dedicated a day to construct a 16-foot ramp for a Martin resident. An early start to the day to beat the summer heat found the group at the site unloading “boxes” that make up the framework of the ramp, along with deck boards that had been cut and assembled off site, said Walton Smith of Clarkesville, working with the Grace-Calvary group. “The group has a trailer that contains the tools and equipment of a mobile workshop,” Smith said. “All of this is set up near where the ramp is to be built. The only thing required on-site is one power outlet.”
A first priority is to connect the landing portion of the ramp to the home. “This is normally the slowest part of the onsite work,” Smith said. The landing is attached to the house and supported by 4x4’s, the ramp is attached to it, sloping at 5 degrees down to ground level. The 4x4 posts are either put into post holes or placed into heavy concrete footings. The landing and ramp boxes are then attached to the house and the posts with nails, bolts and screws. As each box is put into place, pre-cut deck boards are nailed and screwed down to it. Then 2x4’s are attached to the posts to enclose the ramp in a strong, protective railing. Finally, a top board is attached over the top rail and the posts, thus tying the whole structure together. The main Martin ramp needed two additional small ramps in order to be useful. “A short ramp, also at 5 degrees of incline, was built at the house entry and another where the walkway met the driveway so as to permit easier transitions by a wheelchair," Smith said.
Rowell has four ramp projects in the pipeline, with the next scheduled construction day set for September in Homer. This ministry is an example of what can be started by one person, said Father Sam Buice, rector of Grace-Calvary. Ray Rowell began building ramps in the area many years ago, Buice said.
“He has built this ministry and can know that it will be here long after he stops building ramps himself,” he said. “The group that has formed around him is equally committed to this work. As a person who spent three months in a wheelchair myself, I can say, first-hand how important a ramp can be and what it means to have someone build one for you.”
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on the mailing list for notices of upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Photos: Walton Smith