Building wheelchair ramps for community members benefits users and participants. Ramp ministries train potential Volunteers in Missions (VIM) teams, energize churches and annual conferences, and increase disability awareness through interaction with ramp recipients. VIM coordinator Rev. Larry Norman partnered with churches and volunteers for weekend events in New Orleans, which ended with Sunday worship. In its second year 300 workers built 33 ramps. The conference no longer holds the “Takin’ it to the Streets” blitz, but regional groups build ramps. The annual blitz in the Louisiana Conference inspired others.Greg Forrester, a Northeast Jurisdiction VIM coordinator, attended a blitz. Now his group uses modular ramps that can be quickly installed, taken apart and recycled when users no longer need them. He emphasizes building relationships as well as ramps. The following may provide ideas your ramp ministry.
Ramps of Hope
“Ramps of Hope” was inspired by Greg Forrester’s work, and initiated by Erie County area volunteers who build ramps in the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. Deacon Debbie Hills became aware of a need for ramps, began assessing assets and found donated storage and assembly space in an old school. She obtained seed money and worked with churches to engage in ministry. Love Inc. determines recipient need and eligibility. Funds come from grants, donations, fund raisers, recipients and family members. RoH checks building codes, permits and inspections. Ramp modules are built in advance and stored, then installed when needed. There are leaders and a coordinator who organizes meals to share with recipients. Hills and others do intake and follow-up visits, ask about installing ramps and unmet needs. They follow-up with holiday baskets. Families without churches are invited to attend the nearest UM church. Since 2010, volunteers have built 21 ramps.
“Reaching Accessibility for All Methodist Persons and Places.” RAMP, in the North Alabama Annual Conference, is a non-profit ministry and conference Advance Special. RAMP churches and individuals assist with ramps, bathrooms, chairlifts, and elevators for churches and homes. Some projects only need funding; while volunteers help build others. A retired engineer with a disability draws up plans. A Conference Advance Special and Bridge Builders, a program for congregations committed to being active in disability ministry, raise funds. RAMP accepts applications on first-come, first-serve basis and provides help as long as funds are available. Applications include a need statement, requested project, affirmation of financial need, available volunteer workers, project plans, supplies needed and estimated costs. Churches send applications to their pastor or district director of Disability Ministries. Recipients do not have to be United Methodist.
“Servants at Work” (SAWS) began as part of the Construction Ministry at St. Luke’s UMC and Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. It has grown to include other churches in the area and 63 of Indiana’s 92 counties. It also has affiliates in Arizona and Virginia. At first, ramp sections were built at Second Presbyterian and installed around the city. More recently, SAWS has obtained dedicated warehouse space. In 2008, 30 ramps were built, with 2281 volunteer hours; 2021 saw a total of 115. SAWS takes referrals from Central Indiana Council on Aging, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Independent Living Centers, and others. Reaching a base of volunteers beyond those who can build, some conduct interviews and site surveys. Additionally, after a ramp is installed, SAWS strives to find social and spiritual opportunities where clients can participate.
The “United in Mission Army” assists seniors and people with disabilities in Texas and nearby areas with ramps as well as other service projects. Visit their website or read a local newspaper article.
Doing it yourself
Instructions about planning and building ramps can be found in many places, such as
- The Ability Toolbox, “How to Buy or Build Wheelchair Ramps: A Complete Guide“.
- Lowe’s Home Improvement, “How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp.”
Media coverage of ramp ministries