Volunteers building a ramp

A team of volunteers from First Presbyterian Church of Belen, led by pastor Jerry Kuyk, installs a ramp at a home in the town of Peralta. This is the fourth ramp the group has completed in Valencia County so far. (Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photos)

Entering your own home sounds like an easy enough prospect, but if you have mobility challenges, it’s often easier said than done.

A new chapter of the New Mexico Ramp Project here in Valencia County is helping by building ramps for older adults and people with mobility issues.

In the last several months, a volunteer group with the First Presbyterian Church of Belen has completed four ramp projects in various communities.

Jerry Kuyk, pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Belen, said Bill Schattschneidler, the team leader for Valencia County, approached the church with the idea.

“He thought it was something we could get involved with. It started as a men’s ministry, but several women have joined as well,” Kuyk said.

One unique aspect of NMRP is it provides volunteers with materials and pricing spreadsheets, as well as isometric images of various ramp modules, which can be built off site and assembled at the client’s home.

The church has storage space for the raw materials and ramp modules, which is a big benefit to the project, the pastor said.

Because the nonprofit isn’t in a position to evaluate the medical or financial needs of prospective clients, it doesn’t take referrals directly from clients.

Volunteers installing a ramp module

Making sure everything is level and straight is key when building an access ramp to a home. The team of volunteers from First Presbyterian Church of Belen assembles modules for the ramps off site before installing the final build.

Kuyk said potential clients are asked to contact their health care provider or caseworker and request they fill out a request for a ramp at nmramp.org.

Even though the group has completed only a handful of projects, the pastor said the work is immensely satisfying.

“It’s very moving to see someone walk up the ramp with ease,” he said.

Greg Hallstrom, executive director of the New Mexico Ramp Project, said there are 10 teams around the state, in Hobbs, Las Cruces, Española, Artesia, Albuquerque and now Valencia County.

The New Mexico organization is actually a spin off of the Texas Ramp Project, he said.

“They (the Texas corporation) were building ramps in Las Cruces and felt it was appropriate to have a New Mexico organization, rather than pulling resources from Texas,” Hallstrom said. “Texas developed the program but we put our own spin on it (with the modules).

“I’m actually sliding out of the picture in Valencia County. My job is to train the local team and go away.”

As the program starts, volunteers are taught ramp building techniques, provided tools and materials and guided through the process of building a ramp.

The ramps are free to homeowners, Hallstrom said, and some will donate funds to the organization, but it’s in no way required.

If you need a ramp or know someone who does, call 505-585-3832 or visit nmramp.org to fill out a request form.

To help the New Mexico Ramp Project, you can volunteer your time building ramps or contribute funds. Each ramp costs an average of $2,000 in materials.

The New Mexico Ramp Project is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit that provides free ramps for older adults and people with mobility issues across New Mexico. People are identified by local health care providers and organizations knowing the financial and medical condition of the individual. The organization’s vision is that no New Mexico resident shall lack safe access because of financial limitations.

Click here for the original online article by Julia M. Dendinger.