Through six years of ministry and two Rampin’ Ups (2012, 2014), North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) has asked anybody and everybody to build a wheelchair ramp. Baptists on Mission are their first call, but they’ve also found many ramp-building friends among Rotary, Ruritan and Civitan groups; Boy Scouts; Methodists; Presbyterians; banks; and biker clubs. The one group they had never asked to build a wheelchair ramp was themselves. Until now.
On April 23, NCBAM team members came from all over the state to focus on ramp needs in Iredell County. Embracing the intergenerational aspect of Rampin’ Up! 2016, they brought along spouses, kids and friends in order to build three ramps in one day.
Jock Smith, husband of East Regional Director Yvetta Smith and frequent ramp-designer and builder in the Durham area, served as crew chief. He prebuilt parts of each ramp and then guided the motley collection of neophytes in the use of power drills, crow bars and post-hole diggers.
The youngest members of the ramp-building team were Peyton (11) and Nicolette (12), children of NCBAM Director Sandy Gregory and his wife Renee. Peyton’s favorite part of the day was the process; he liked “using the tools.”
Nicolette received her joy at the finish line. “I loved seeing how happy the elders were when the ramp was all done. Just seeing their faces made me happy. I would do this again any day!”
According to Call Center Director Melanie Beeson, Iredell County was chosen because it is an area of great need and NCBAM has difficulty recruiting enough builders there.
“By building ramps in Iredell County, we hope to bring awareness to the need and the increased freedom and safety that ramps bring. We hope more volunteers will step up to meet the ramp needs and to share in the joy that comes from serving others.”
Emma Feimster’s home on a country road outside of Statesville was the site of the first ramp build. The 89-year-old had a toe amputated in October and has since been unsteady on her feet. Navigating just one step outside her kitchen door was dangerous. Before the team left, Feimster used her walker to easily exit her home and sat in a lawn chair while the NCBAM Team prayed.
After the last “amen,” Feimster looked around at each face, young and old, and stated, “I’m saying this from my heart. Thank you for this ramp. I love you.”
Rob Kauffman’s home near I-40 in Statesville was the site of the second ramp. Rob’s mother, Mary, has been in and out of hospitals and rehab centers for two years and is now living with her son and receiving care from Hospice.
Asked how he had been managing the steps before the ramp was built, Kauffman replied, “Very carefully! This ramp will make it so much easier for both of us. Now that the weather is nice, she likes to sit outside and watch the dogs play.”
After the prayer, Mary Kauffman thanked the team and said, “The good Lord has taken care of me. I think it’s wonderful that the kids are involved today.”
The third ramp of the day was built for Aquilla Freeman in southern Statesville. Just the day before the ramp was built, Freeman had toppled from her wheelchair while her daughter was doing her best to lower the chair down the deck steps.
Freeman’s daughter, Tabitha and her brother Darrell are taking turns staying with their mother during her recent health issues. “I tried with all my might to keep her from going down. I’m so glad she wasn’t hurt. This ramp is a blessing!”
NCBAM Team members now have an expanded appreciation for the thousands of ramp-builders they have worked with over the past six years. Sarah Faircloth, Call Center specialist for the west region remarked, “It was great to take a day to go out as a team and do ourselves what we ask others to do. Ramp builders often downplay their contributions and say to me, ‘Oh, this is just what we do.’ But their work is huge. It changes lives.”
Sandy Gregory focuses his leadership style on team-building and similarly focuses the larger work of the ministry on partnership-building. “The NCBAM team itself is a microcosm of the ways in which the ministry functions. No one person, no one organization can do it all. But together, whether working among ourselves or with other state groups, we make a huge difference in the lives of aging adults.
“What do you call a group with different backgrounds, different families, different gifts, and different talents who come together to serve? You call them the church.”