By Kara McMurray, Daily News staff writer Oct 14, 2017
Betty Westergreen sat in the corner of her back door entry Friday, smiling as she watched volunteers install a ramp leading off her back porch and into her driveway.
“It’s going to be really nice, I think,” she said.
“I was just doing something nice for him and taking him some food for supper because he wasn’t feeling well,” she said. “And then that happened. It wasn’t fun at all.”
The injuries have limited her mobility, and she now uses a walker to get around her house. Getting out of her house has been a problem, though. Both entries have stairs leading up to them, as well as lips going out the door.
“It wasn’t easy,” Westergreen said. “I didn’t go out by myself.”
Over the past couple of years she has received plenty of help, including from a woman who comes in to do her housework and another who completes her grocery shopping. Others help her get to the places she needs to go, like her brother’s house on Troy Road.
Friday, she got a little more help from the Disability Action Center, Palouse Habitat for Humanity and Moscow Central Lions Club.
The DAC received a $17,500 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in September 2016 that allows for the purchase of modular wheelchair ramps. The center has partnered with Palouse Habitat for Humanity to have the ramps installed, free of cost to the recipients.
“We’re all about keeping people with disabilities in their homes,” said Vicki Leeper, marketing specialist with the DAC.
A volunteer with the DAC applied for the grant, and it was given on the condition that the center find a partner organization for the installation of the ramps.
“We were just thrilled that we got it in, and now we refer everybody over to Palouse Habitat (for the ramps),” Leeper said.
DAC purchases the ramps and Palouse Habitat stores them in its garage. When a call comes in for a ramp, Brent Bradberry with Palouse Habitat goes through a process to get everything in place for the day of the installation.
“I visit the house, take measurements, maybe take a picture,” he said. “It takes maybe about two hours to come out and take some measurements.”
From there, he makes sure all of the necessary pieces are actually on hand.
“I like to lay them out on the concrete floor,” Bradberry said. “Every installation is unique.”
It takes about an hour or two the day of an installation to prepare and make sure all the pieces are loaded up, and it takes two or three hours to complete the installation, he added.
The ramps, purchased by DAC, are all aluminum and modular, so they can be customized to each location. Additionally, when a ramp is done being used, it can then be re-used at another residence.
“We don’t really know how long an individual is going to need one,” Bradberry said. “They should just be returned in the event they’re no longer needed.”
Leeper said the modular ramps really help the program to be able to pay forward.
“We consider them all permanent. If it’s a couple years or whatever that someone has one, that’s fine,” she said. “We just want it back when they’re done so that we can use it again. They fit just about anywhere.”
Leeper noted the shortest time a ramp was in use was just for a weekend. A ramp was needed for a family reunion, and the DAC, Palouse Habitat and Lions Club were all happy to help out, she said.
Larry Verdale, construction coordinator for the Moscow Central Lions Club, was at the Westergreen house Friday for the installation, along with Lions member Ken White. Verdale, White and other Lions members have helped with the modular ramp installations, completing six or seven with a team of 12 to 15 volunteers. Each volunteer has been trained, and two or three of them come to each installation.
“Lions is a service club, and it’s a good opportunity to help out,” Verdale said.
Prior to the partnership between DAC and Palouse Habitat, the Lions had been helping Palouse Habitat build wooden ramps for a number of years.
“We built a couple of full size wooden ramps,” Bradberry said.
The wooden ramps were helpful for those who needed them, but Bradberry said the modular ramps have been a great service to the community.
“Now that we’ve actually got a third partner who actually has the funding to buy these ramps, it’s great,” he said, noting these ramps are more durable than the wooden ones.
The DAC has used up the grant funding for the modular ramps, but the program will still continue, as the ramps can be re-used and as the center looks into more ways to purchase them.
“We’re looking for ways to keep ramping it up,” Leeper said.
She said the DAC is looking into becoming an official distributor of modular ramps for this area. That would allow for the purchase of ramps, with a reimbursement coming from Medicaid after the purchase. The ramps would remain free, with the program just being funded from a different source.
“We’d still do the existing program we have now,” Leeper said.
In addition to the different funding route, DAC is also looking into a different type of modular ramp.
“We’re looking at the QRamp,” Leeper said. “It has holes built into it so the snow load doesn’t build up, which is very important in this area. We’re hoping to be able to switch to that one eventually.”
All parties said they are happy to be able to provide this service to the community, and they hope to be able to get the word out about it for anyone who needs a ramp.
“It’s made all the difference. With about 18 hours of time, this thing is set up and these people can come home or stay in their homes,” Leeper said. “I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”
They also want to get the word out for volunteers.
“We (Palouse Habitat) do our main job building houses, and we’re really busy,” Bradberry said. “We really want more volunteers. Please come. It’s fun, and it’s good exercise.”
People who need a ramp or cannot afford one, or who would like to volunteer, can contact DAC at (208) 883-0523 to find out more.
Kara McMurray can be reached at (208) 883-4632, or by email to email@example.com.