Rotary Club of Madison County

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Rotary Clubs throughout the world are known for providing humanitarian service. The Rotary Club of Madison County does this with their Handicapped Accessible Ramp Program, which provides ramps, free of charge, for anyone in need.

The ramp building program began in 1995 after the club had helped the local Meals on Wheels organization deliver lunches. “A club member noticed that one person they delivered to had great difficulty getting in and out of his home, so the club members came back and built him a ramp,” says Rotarian Ray Gandy, who helped start the program. “That opened our eyes to the need. We built two ramps the next year, and it grew from there.”

As of summer 2021, the Rotarians had constructed more than 820 ramps by building an average of 35 each year. Initially, Rotary members handled all the construction, but now Rotarians and volunteers work together on each build, according to Ramp Program Chairman Ed Brown. Depending on the size of the ramp, construction typically takes one to two hours.

“We’re way beyond anybody needing to tell anyone what to do next,” says Brown. “We read each other’s minds. Because we’ve been working together so long, it’s a seamless building process that goes like clockwork.”

All that’s required to be the beneficiary of a Rotary ramp is need, according to Brown. “We build ramps for people with medical conditions, those who have been injured in car wrecks or had surgery, the elderly, and if someone is becoming frail and afraid of falling, we’ll build a ramp before they get hurt,” says Brown, noting that ramps provide a way for wheelchair-bound residents to get out of their house in case of fire.

Madison County Rotarians used their Jackson EMC Foundation grant to purchase building materials. With cost of treated lumber increasing, the grant came at a great time, according to Brown, who says the club gets calls weekly from people requesting ramps. “Since 1995, we’ve never caught up with the ongoing list of people in need of a ramp,” he says.

To fill the need, the Rotary Club of Madison County has helped Rotary clubs in both Franklin and Hall counties establish their own ramp building programs.

While it may appear that Rotarians are simply giving residents a wooden ramp, what they actually provide is freedom, according to Brown. He says he’ll never forget the words of one recipient after he rolled his wheelchair down his new ramp for the first time.

“He’d been having to wait for his neighbors to bring his mail and paper in every day,” says Brown. “The first time he rolled his wheelchair down the ramp to the ground, he said, ‘I’m free. I can come in and out whenever I want to.’ These types of comments keep us going.”

Visit Rotary Club of Madison County Website