March 20--GREENSBURG -- The efforts of half a dozen volunteers Wednesday morning had made a world of difference for a Greensburg woman by that afternoon.
On a cold, misty early spring morning, Ed Tower and a crew of several others went to work just outside the front door of Carolyn Browder'sWest Fourth Street home, sawing and hammering away at a ramp that will grant the 80-year-old home owner a gift no amount of money could ever buy: personal freedom.
Carolyn "Connie" Browder has struggled with mobility issues and other health ailments in recent years, leading her to require the use of a mobility scooter to get around. The scooter has been a boon to improving Carolyn's way of life, but one problem remained: She needed a ramp to exit her home in the battery powered vehicle.
Enter Thrive Alliance, a Bartholomew County-based non-profit association that hosts a program called "Ramps to Freedom." Carolyn's insurance provider read about the program in an article published in the Daily News more than a year ago. "Ramps for Freedom" seemed to be just the thing Carolyn needed most, so she called Vickie Bateman, Thrive Alliance's volunteer resource manager, who met with the Greensburg woman at her home.
Funding for Carolyn's project came in the form of a $1,500 grant from the Decatur County Community Foundation, leaving only the manual labor to be accomplished.
That's where things stood Wednesday morning when Tower, Kevin Meyer, Jim Dunn, Bill Stache, Tom Long and Ted Unrue went to work at Carolyn's home.
All six men are retirees who comprise a so-called "Wednesday Crew" that completed 13 ramps in 16 weeks last year. They finished the first season of the program with 22 ramps built in total. Carolyn's ramp is the first constructed by the Wednesday Crew in Decatur County. The builders have created similar ramps in Bartholomew, Jackson, Jennings and Brown counties throughout the last year. Decatur County REMC lent assistance Wednesday as well.
For the work, the six volunteers have accepted no pay. The noble toil itself is reward enough.
"It's extremely rewarding to see them walk down the ramp for the first time with a big smile on their face," Tower said.
The impact of the work happening just outside Carolyn's front door was immediately apparent for the ramp's recipient as well.
Carolyn passed the morning watching TV and chatting with her son Russ, grateful for the work going on just past her front door.
Carolyn is helped by her son who lives close by, but even entering her 81st year, she remains as independent as she ever was. Her new ramp will only help her stay that way.
"It's kept her from being a prisoner in her home," Bateman said of the project. "We want to offer individuals an opportunity to stay in their homes for as long as possible."
That's part of Thrive Alliance's multi-faceted mission.
The Ramps to Freedom program is geared toward helping individuals with physical limitations see an improved quality of life. The program isn't limited to seniors, either, as children and other adults with mobility difficulties may also qualify for a ramp installation.
The program is funded through grants, donations and area churches. The key to keeping the program going is adding volunteers in the vein of Ed Tower and friends.
"We're always looking for volunteers," Bateman said. She added her hopes a crew of Decatur County builders may one day be constructing ramps in the Tree City for people like Carolyn Browder. Members of the Wednesday Crew would help train such a group as well.
"Please call," Bateman asked of those potential volunteers. "I would love to talk with them."
In the meantime, Carolyn Browder ("Connie" to most of her friends) can now once again make her trips to the grocery store or wherever she might need to go.
Smiling and seated comfortably in her living room recliner Wednesday morning, Carolyn was a picture of calm, contented appreciation.
"It'll be so good to be able to get out again and go all over town," Carolyn said. "I appreciate everyone, all of them, out there working in the cold and the rain."
For more information about Thrive Alliance, "Ramps for Freedom," or to volunteer, contact Vickie Bateman at 812-372-6918.
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056; [email protected]
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