VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) - Imagine being trapped in your home, cut off from the outside world.
That, unfortunately, is the sad reality for people with disabilities who live in homes that are not wheelchair-friendly. However, some volunteers on the Coast are helping hundreds of people regain their freedom by building wheelchair ramps.
Volunteers with Volunteers of America Southeast and the Jackson County Baptist Association were hard at work Friday morning building a wheelchair ramp at a Vancleave home.
“We got a call from one of the health care organizations in Pascagoula, Mississippi, explaining to us that they couldn’t get in and out of their house and they needed a safe way to do that," said Derrick Tapper, Relief and Community Services Director for Volunteers of America.
The old ramp at the home was dangerously steep and just 12 feet long. The new ramp is built to code and is 50 feet long.
The volunteers build about two ramps a week. Friday’s ramp was ramp number 23 of this year. In the past two years, they’ve built 197 ramps.
“We do this because God’s been good to us and for the most part, we can’t thank Him enough, and so it’s just giving back a little bit," said volunteer Mike Wright.
The ramps can easily cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to build, but the volunteers build them completely free of charge for those who need them. Instead, recipients are asked to pay it forward. They can place whatever donation they can and want to give into an envelope, and then that money is used to help pay for the next ramp.
“All of the people we minister to are elderly, or those who have disabilities, or those who are veterans, or those who are uninsured poor, most of them can not afford these ramps," Tapper said.
Each ramp helps restore hope.
“Many of them have even given up; they just don’t think anyone is going to help them," Tapper said. “It’s not unusual for them to hug us, cry with us, to thank us, to call me to send us letters."
The volunteers work fast. They completed Friday’s ramp in just three hours.
Now, it’s on to the next project on an endless mission to help others.
“I’ll continue to do it as long as my health holds out and the donations keep coming in," Tapper said.
Tapper said the waiting list for ramps is full, but they’re working with other organizations to replicate what they do.
Volunteers of America Southeast serves more than 2,000 people in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia through community outreach programs including disaster recovery, home repairs and providing toys for kids at Christmas.
Donations are always needed, and volunteers are welcomed.