A statewide nonprofit group dedicated to helping people with disabilities is marking a milestone — the construction of 100 miles of wheelchair ramps.
To celebrate, Texas Ramp Project volunteers throughout the state are building even more ramps in an effort dubbed 100 Miles of Freedom.
All together, ramps built throughout the state by the organization would stretch from College Station to Houston.
“It’s just one foot at a time,” said Jerry Gritter, regional coordinator for the Bryan-College Station chapter of the Texas Ramp Project. “You stay at it long enough, you get to it. ... We didn’t get in it to get 100 miles of ramp. We got in it to try to help people that really need it, but it just adds up and adds up and adds up.”
The Bryan-College Station chapter of the organization spent Nov. 21 building a ramp for Bryan resident Carmen Rivera.
Rivera, a bilateral amputee, uses a wheelchair and had to rely on help from her neighbors or family members to move in and out of the house.
“They have to lift her up over three steps three times a week to go to dialysis,” chapter organizers said in a news release.
Ramp recipients are typically elderly or disabled and cannot otherwise afford to build a ramp, Gritter said. The chapter, which covers the seven-county Brazos Valley region, gets its project referrals from health care professionals and clinics, rehab centers, the Area Agency on Aging and the Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living.
“They all need a way to get in and out of their house,” he said. “We build ramps for people who haven’t been out of the house in months, and that’s the only way they can get out.”
In addition to helping the ramp recipient, Gritter said, the ramp also helps his or her caregivers and families by alleviating some of the stress. In Rivera’s case, he said, the ramp gives her the ability to get in and out of her house without assistance.
Gritter said the local chapter is on track to build about 88 ramps this year, which is close to what it did last year. The group lost about two months of build time due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it started building again in mid-May with mask and social distancing protocols.
Each ramp is built by volunteers that include retirees, church members and students. The Young Men’s Service League took on Rivera’s project.
Gritter said the local chapter has built more than 800 ramps since it was founded in 2008 — two years after the state organization. Across the state, the Texas Ramp Project has helped build nearly 20,000 ramps since 2006.
Locally, Gritter said, the organization puts a ramp together for about 90% of the referrals it gets, but the goal is to help every referral.
“Some people really don’t need a ramp; some, there’s no way to put one in there, and it’s just space,” he said. “But our goal is to build a ramp for everyone that needs one and can’t afford them.”
Gritter said it is satisfying to put a ramp together because it’s easy to see how the work is helping.
“We go in there, and two or three hours, we built a ramp, and we’ve changed someone’s life,” he said.
The organization receives funding from grants, the United Way of the Brazos Valley, the Area Agency on Aging, the Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living and donations.
Anyone interested in volunteering or donating can do so at www.texasramps.org.