For Lisa Matheny, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, a newly constructed ramp made possible for access in and out of her house in Smith County.
“Those people (volunteers who built the ramp) are just wonderful people,” Ms. Matheny said.
Tyler members of The Texas Ramp Project recently worked five hours to construct and attach the 26 1/2-foot-long ramp to Ms. Matheny’s home.
Harold Driver, whose legs were amputated, had trouble getting out of his Smith County home until Texas Ramp Project workers built a 34-foot long ramp for his wheelchair. Now he uses the ramp to go to the doctor.
“He really needs it and we really appreciate it very much,” his wife, Patsy Driver, said.
“I don’t like to be a shut-in; I like to get out and move around. It was real hard for me,” she said.
But four or five Texas Ramp Project workers from Tyler “built a real long and real nice ramp,” Ms. Roach said. “I am so proud of it. It’s a wonderful thing; I appreciate them doing that for me.”
Often on Saturday mornings, a team of volunteers from The Texas Ramp Project in Tyler turns out to build ramps for the handicapped or elderly who need one but cannot afford to buy one.
The team includes retirees and people who work. The youngest volunteer, though, is Bishop T.K. Gorman High School pupil Colin Howman.
“The way we build them, it’s not terribly complicated,” said George Cronin, a project team leader from Tyler.
“Usually we can complete a pretty good-sized ramp in four to five hours,” Cronin said.
The Texas Ramp Project is a 501c3 nonprofit, nondenominational, nongovernmental organization that started in Dallas and expanded statewide. It relies on individuals, foundations, congregations, civic organizations and corporate partners to provide funding, materials and facilities for the ramps.
Volunteers in the project built 35 ramps last year in Smith, Van Zandt and Henderson counties and about 800 ramps across the state.
Since the organization incorporated in 2006, volunteers statewide have contributed more than 93,032 hours building 2,646 durable ramps stretching 13.376 miles across the state, according to information on its website.
“This was more along the lines of something I would be comfortable with,” he said.
A little less than two years ago, Cronin joined the Texas Ramp Project out of an interest to provide labor.
At the time, a unit of the Texas Ramp Project out of Longview covered 12 area counties including Smith County. A representative came to Tyler and talked to Cronin about helping build ramps.
His involvement quickly escalated. Soon he was recruiting volunteers, became coordinator of The Texas Ramp Project in Tyler, a branch responsible for Smith, Van Zandt and Henderson counties, and started raising funds.
“I’ve got the time to do it, and I recognize the need out there. As far as the labor, I don’t mind getting out there and doing the work,” Cronin said.
“It has taken a long time to pull together a reliable group of people we can draw from; now we’re close to the time that we can break out a second team of people in Tyler,” Cronin said. “I’m ready to push this thing to the point it has enough people involved that it doesn’t depend on one or two people.”
Cronin added, “It’s been tough putting together people who stay with us on a regular basis. (There was) big turnover and then we got to the point where we have a reliable core group.”
Normally, the Texas Ramp Project in Tyler is set up to build one ramp a month, but had built six by early May this year.
“It (the number built) depends on the amount of referrals we get,” Cronin said. “Sometimes it gets slow, and all of a sudden, we get bombed with them.”
All referrals for ramp requests come from either medical personnel, social organization or maybe a home health care agency, Cronin said.
An application form on the website for The Texas Ramp Project must be filled by a social worker or medical person and then applications are screened in terms of financial need.
Conditions of people that the group builds ramps for run the gamut from a 14-year-old cerebral palsy patient to a young woman who has used a wheelchair for 23 years because of a motorcycle accident.
Another client was an elderly man who had lost a leg because of diabetes and also is a heart patient. Another woman who received a ramp just had difficulty getting up and down stairs.
A lot of the ramp recipients are older people whose declining health because of age creates disability and other problems necessitating the need for a ramp.
“It’s like snowflakes — no two (cases) are the same,” Cronin said.
The average ramp that the Texas Ramp Project’s Tyler volunteers build is a little less than 30 feet long and the shortest this year was 13 feet. The height off the ground of the ramp dictates its length.
“We build them 4 foot wide and if they have a turn surface, we build a 5-by-5 platform to give room to maneuver, particularly if (the client) has a motorized chair,” Cronin said.
“We build everything out of pressure-treated lumber, so it will be there for some time.”