Free service helps low-income residents with disabilities better navigate in and out of their homes.
By SARAH WILSON, The Villages Daily Sun
For anyone making their way through life relying on the assistance of a wheelchair or walker, navigating stairs can be a struggle – especially when those stairs stand between them and the world beyond their front door.
Beulah Slaymaker, 97, was confined to her home for months earlier this year when she no longer had the strength to get out of her wheelchair and make her way down the four steps from the front porch of the Sorrento mobile home she shares with her daughter, Shirley Wencel.
Wencel had to cancel doctor appointments and switch to home health care for her mother after it became too unsafe for the pair to navigate their way down the stairs.
Then Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter stepped in.
Since January, program coordinator Shari Kuck said, Habitat has installed four ramps for disabled, low-income residents of Lake and Sumter counties at no charge to the homeowners, including one for Slaymaker in July.
And, Kuck said, the group always is looking for more people in need to help. The organization currently is accepting applications from those who would benefit from and may qualify for a ramp.
“We look for any way we can assist to make their lives easier,” Kuck said.
Wencel said the ramp has made her and her mother’s lives easier in many ways.
“We weren’t able to go anywhere until they put the ramp in,” Wencel said. “I just couldn’t get her out, there was just no way. I was always scared of her walking down the steps, and now all I have to do is push the wheelchair and it goes down so easily.”
Kuck said Habitat has been able to fund the ramps this year thanks to a grant from the RL Mace Universal Design Institute. Habitat uses grant money to purchase previously used aluminium ramps to install for permanent use outside people’s homes.
The metal ramps, she said, are an upgrade in durability and efficiency compared to the hand-built wooden ramps Habitat volunteers previously crafted for locals in need.
“They are so much easier for the homeowners to maintain,” Kuck said. “It’s actually been a real, real blessing.”
In addition to the organization’s Exterior Ramp Assistance program, Habitat offers a general Preservation & Repair program, which provides help on a smaller scale aiding those in need with general home and maintenance requests and minor exterior repair – anything from painting their home to mowing their lawn.
Funds for that program this year were donated by Publix Super Markets, with manpower donated by volunteers.
Kuck said she is touched every day by the generosity of local volunteers, and how thankful the recipients are for the even the menial projects.
“The smallest thing you can do for someone make their day, makes their year,” she said. “Even just mowing their lawn – it means so much.”
For Slaymaker and Wencel, the ramp means the freedom for the pair top be able to leave their home.
“We actually go outside now,” Wencel said. “It’s been so great.”