Volunteer State members build ramps for veterans in need

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Many of us take for granted the simplicity of entering and exiting our own homes as we please. This can be a daily obstacle for many veterans who depend on wheelchairs for much of their mobility.

What started as a single gesture of kindness from members of one DAV Chapter has evolved into a joint effort of compassion, helping to address these mobility issues in a Tennessee community.

“We built a ramp for one of our members, so his wife could get him in and out of their home to get him to his doctor appointments,” said Winford Calhoun, DAV Department of Tennessee Treasurer. “Then the word got around, and we have continued to receive requests.”

Since late 2014, members from DAV Chapter 20 in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., have built more than 12 ramps for veterans in need of help maneuvering in and out of their homes. That number will continue to increase, as there are more ramps waiting to be built.

Ernest Nevins, a World War II veteran, was among the first recipients of a ramp built by the Chapter.

“I didn’t want it,” said Nevins. “I argued against the Chapter using funds for me, but I am happy to have the ramp especially now that I use my wheelchair full time.”

When the need for a ramp is identified, a Chapter member surveys the site and presents the case to the Chapter’s executive board. If approved, a local company supplies the wood and other hardware. Then DAV members and volunteers converge on the site to work until the ramp is completed.

The most recent project was the largest, resulting in a 36-foot-long ramp.

“The veteran told us what he wanted,” said Chapter Commander Chad Brewer. “We had six or seven volunteers show, two of whom were new members. I was pleased. I thought the ramp looked good, and the veteran was very happy.”

The service, like all assistance provided by DAV, is for veterans whether they are DAV members or not. The basic service is also provided at no cost.

“There was a veteran in bad health and without the resources to get a ramp,” said James Deatherage, DAV Department of Tennessee Senior Vice Commander. “We did not want to leave him out just because he was not a member of our Chapter.”

“This is a good example of membership being the lifeblood of DAV,” said DAV National Membership Director Doug Wells. “The more members we have, the more volunteers we have and the more veterans we are able to help. I am proud of what they are doing in Tennessee, and I hope to continue to see their efforts grow.”

In addition to the obvious benefit of aiding local veterans, the Chapter has also seen a rise in membership and donations.

“People see that we are doing something for veterans, and they want to be a part of that,” said Deatherage.

“I can tell you that since the ramp building started, we have welcomed 11 new members into our Chapter and donations have been in the hundreds of dollars,” said Wanda Newell, Chapter 20 Treasurer.

“You couldn’t ask for a greater group of people to work with,” said Ray Crossland, one of the 11 new Chapter 20 members since the project began. “We did good work while also having a good time.”

Newell said one of the ramps built was for a veteran who was carrying his wife down seven steps in order to get her in the car and to her medical appointments.

“We find people who need ramps because our Chapter is active in the community,” said Newell. “We know a lot of veterans and work closely with the county veteran service officer who is our Chapter’s senior vice commander.”

“It is projects like the ramp building that get done without much publicity at all,” said Calhoun. “We are happy to help. This is what the Chapter is about, and I am so proud to be a member of this group.”