Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

July 21, 2010

Extending a helping hand: Church group builds wheelchair ramps

HAHIRA — A church group from Savannah traveled south this week to build handicap accessible ramps for people in need.

On Tuesday, the group from Skidaway Island United Methodist Church, consisting of both teens and adults, braved the 95+ degree temperatures to help families in Hahira and Valdosta.

Scott Cleveland, the group leader, said this is not just about building ramps for people but also a time for ministering.

“We have a team of 26 people in eight different locations.” he said. “We just enjoy getting out of our environment to both help and enjoy fellowship with other people all over the country.”

Cleveland said he got the idea from another ministry, and decided to see if there was a need in south Georgia.

“We thought it was a good thing, so I placed two ads in The Valdosta Daily Times.”

The ministry leader said they received approximately 12-15 replies for people needing wheelchair ramps at their homes. “It’s amazing how many people here are home bound,” he said.

Cleveland also said Valdosta wasn’t randomly selected for the service trip. The senior pastor at Skidaway Island United Methodist Church is Jim Giddens, a former resident of Valdosta.

Cleveland wasn’t the only adult who got his hands dirty for the cause. Cary Negley also wanted it to be known that the service they were providing included mentoring to others. He also said it was important for the youth to get involved and really know what it means to help people. “We want them to come every year,” he said. “They get excited about doing this as well.”

A few of the teens volunteering during their summer break were Ethan Field, Alice and Emily Cochran, and their cousin Caroline, all from Savannah.

Field, 14, said his reason for volunteering is simply being able to see the smiles on the people’s faces.

His female building partners had nothing but smiles on their faces while they dug the holes for the posts. Caroline, also 14, said this was the part she enjoyed doing the most. When asked what the hardest part of their job was, Alice, 15, said, for her, it was making sure everything was right. Older sister Emily, 17, agreed and added that the railings were also difficult to do.

The teens said they work well together, making sure the jobs are done sufficiently. The girls said at times they had to use the boys’ muscles when carrying the bags of concrete and their minds for the “technical stuff.” Emily and Alice also said they did their part in fundraising by making over 100 quiches and selling them for $10 each.

The ramp was built for homeowner Dale Young. He was adamant that the story focus on the group and not on him. He said he was just blessed that God sent them (the group) his way and, even though it may seem a little premature, the ramp will help him tremendously. Young has suffered from diabetes for over 10 years. His left leg has already been amputated, and it’s highly possible the right one may be as well.

“I just want to be prepared,” he said. “I don’t want to wait until that day comes and then struggle to get what I need. I’m looking to get a power chair, so the ramp will definitely help.”

The grateful homeowner said he wanted to do something to show the group how much he appreciated their hard work and time, but instead of receiving anything from Young, the group just want him to be a blessing to someone else.

Cleveland said that from this article and the ads he placed in the paper, he hopes that others will get the notion to do something for someone in need.

The group has been providing their service for the past 10 years in various places such as New York, New Orleans and Alabama. They hold fund-raisers and collect donations from church members to pay for the building materials.

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