Rebuilding Henry ascends to 300th ramp, more planned

Claudia Loucks
For the Republic
Steve Durian, left; Jack Gowan, and Jim Skiles were among the Rebuilding Together Henry County volunteers installing the group’s 300th wheelchair ramp in Geneseo.

The Rebuilding Together Henry County organization reached a major milestone on Aug. 24 when volunteers installed the 300th wheelchair-accessible ramp at a Geneseo home.

That first wheelchair accessible ramp was installed in 1996 by RTHC (formerly known as Christmas in April) at the former location of the Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry on North Russell St. in Geneseo.

Sarah Snyder, executive director of RTHC, said, “What makes this accomplishment so big is that ramp #200 was built three years ago. The organization was able to build 100 ramps in three years due to their amazing volunteers, known as the ‘Ramp Crew,’ and the crew is always looking for new volunteers.”

Anyone interested in helping is asked to contact the RTHC office at 309-944-6442 or 309-288-4600.

Snyder said the crew is seeking volunteers from “all over Henry County.”

The recent wheelchair ramp was installed at the home of Larry and Audrey Honzel in Geneseo.

Larry Honzel, who suffers from poor circulation in his legs and feet from having Type 2 Diabetes, said, “Walking up the ramp is a whole lot easier than using my hands to pull myself up the steps because if my hands ever slip, I would certainly fall.”

Larry Honzel, left, Jim Sorenson, seated, and Audrey Honzel watch Rebuilding Together Henry County volunteers install the wheelchair ramp at the Honzel home in Geneseo.

He added, “Every time I walk up the ramp, I say to myself, ‘wow, this is nice.’ They did an awesome job.”

Even though Honzel does not currently use a wheelchair, the ramp is constructed so that it can be used with a wheelchair as well.

In the last 10 years, the RTHC group has provided more than 240 ramps for individuals with compromised mobility.

Snyder recalled that when RTHC first started building ramps there was only one volunteer that could design the ramps…”Now we have six volunteers that are trained to design these ramps throughout the county.”

The ramps are temporary structures and when they are no longer needed will be removed so that the large section can be recycled and used on another ramp.

“This has kept costs lower, especially now that the cost of lumber and materials has increased over the past few years,” Snyder said. “The cost has also remained low due to the partnership our National Organization has with Lowe’s. Due to the generosity of Lowe’s, we have been able to continue building wheelchair ramps without worry about funding. The partnership with Lowe’s over the past five years has been crucial to the success of this program. Also, Great Dane is a local supporter as well, as they have been providing the steel plates that are placed at the end of every ramp.”

There currently are over 100 ramps in use throughout the county, Snyder said.

The ramps are provided free of charge to those in need. A ramp request application does need to be completed before a name can be added to the ramp list and there currently are four requests on the wait list.

Applications are available on the RTHC website, which is www.rebuildingtogether-hc.org, or by emailing ssnyder@rebuildingtogether-hc.org or calling 309-944-6442 or 309-288-4600.