RSVP donates 99-foot ramp

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- Last year, Leila Grant was overwhelmed with joy when she was told a wheelchair ramp would be built outside of her home.

On Thursday, the day she was looking forward to finally became a reality when the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Ramp Builders constructed a ramp outside of her home on Willis Drive.

The ramps built by the group are required to maintain a five degree angle, and because the front door of the Grant residence is higher up from the ground than what is typical, the ramp was set to be 99 feet long by the time it was finished.

"This is one of the largest we have built," said RSVP Ramp Builder Team Leader Jim Hill. "This is unusually long."

A typical ramp is closer to 40 feet long. Construction of a ramp usually takes about two or three hours. Construction on the one at the Grant residence began at about 8 a.m. Thursday, and was expected to be complete by around 1 p.m.

"I feel like it (the ramp) will make a big difference," said Grant, 81. "I hope I live long enough to enjoy it. I really have been needing one."

Grant's husband, Hardwick Grant, 85, is wheelchair-bound.

"I've had to help him up the steps," Leila Grant said of her spouse of 65 years.

For more than 10 years, a group of more than a dozen volunteers have been building ramps for area residents at an average pace of two per week. Most of the volunteers currently involved with the program are in their 70s and 80s.

This year, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital donated about $25,000 to the project.

"They donate a large amount each year," said Hill.

The longest ramp that has been built by the group measures 105 feet. There was a ramp built recently near the Grant home that is more than 70 feet long.

"We've built over six miles of ramp since we've been doing this," Hill said. "We've done about 80 ramps so far this year."

Those wishing to apply for a ramp can do so at the SOWEGA Council on Aging. Applicants are placed on a waiting list in order of need, Hill said.

"I've already got two (ramps) drawn up for next week," the team leader said.

The lumber is purchased by Phoebe and is supplied by a local vendor for no delivery charge. The cost to build one ramp generally runs $12 a foot.

"Giving back is the main thing; it's instant gratification," Hill said. "Usually, when we finish the ramp they (the residents) come out smiling. It's a great feeling."