By Jessica Brodie
LYNCHBURG—When Harry White learned one of his fellow church members could not go home from assisted living because the man couldn’t access the house in his wheelchair, his heart was stirred.
Immediately, White and other church members knew what had to be done.
“We need to build a ramp for him if we’re ever going to get him back home again,” said White, a member of St. John United Methodist Church.
But funding was an obstacle. Among the church and district United Methodist Men, of which White was president, they had willing hands, but no funds to purchase the needed materials to make the ramp a reality.
When White approached his Florence District superintendent, the Rev. Terry Fleming, Fleming had an idea: Why not make this a district-wide day of work and build more than one ramp?
“As the plan came together, it was obvious that we had the hands and resources to do at least two ramps in one morning, so that became the plan,” Fleming said.
On July 13 and then again on Aug. 16, their plans became reality as 40 United Methodist men from 20 area UMCs, some women, and helpers from other denominations joined for workdays that ultimately built three ramps for people in need in the Lynchburg community.
“We had laity and clergy, black and white, young and ‘not so young,’” Fleming said. “So many men arrived ready to help that we could have built four ramps with ease!”
Not only did White and his team build a ramp for his church member, enabling the man to come home, but they also built a ramp for two other people in their district: a middle-aged woman with cerebral palsy who needed a ramp for her motorized wheelchair, as well as one for an elderly woman, a member of nearby Asbury UMC.
“He broke down and cried,” White said of the church member who received the first ramp. “All of them were real grateful. I got so many comments from the families, calling and thanking me for what we did.
“I felt good, like we are doing something that is pleasing in God’s sight.”
Now, White and others in the district have a drive to build even more ramps for people with accessibility troubles. Since the initial ramps, they have received several more requests for help from throughout the Florence District, and they are now doing what they can to raise funds to keep their ramp ministry going.
White said the ramps cost about $1,000 on average to build. The labor is free, but they need to purchase wood and other materials.
“We are trying to help needy people, and these are people who can’t afford to have a ramp built out of their pocket,” White said. “We just need to come up with money to buy the materials.”
Fleming said the men have already decided to do at least two to three work days annually, intentionally spread across the district, funds permitting.
The Florence District is currently collecting funds for the ramp ministry. Anyone interested can send to Florence District, Attn: Ramp Ministry, P.O. Box 408, Florence, SC 29503.