June 17, 2018
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Volunteers make ramp a reality for County man with multiple sclerosis

Kathy McCarty | Presque Isle Star-Herald
Kathy McCarty | Presque Isle Star-Herald
A number of volunteers, including several students at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle and Loring Job Corps in Limestone, teamed up to make a Westfield family'’s wish come true, building a handicapped ramp so a resident can enter and leave his home with less difficulty.
By Kathy McCarty, Presque Isle Star-Herald

WESTFIELD, Maine — The wisdom of our nation’s second president, John Adams, has come to fruition for a Westfield couple who realized Adam’s quote, “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish” — following months of trying to find a way to install a handicapped ramp.

“My husband has MS [multiple sclerosis] — was diagnosed four years ago. The disease has progressed, making it difficult for him to maneuver the steps in and out of our home. Last year we began the process of trying to find a way to get a ramp installed,” said Susan Dyer, noting her husband wished not to be identified.

Dyer said she had tried a number of options, including the Presque Isle Rotary Club and U.S. Department of Agriculture, trying to find a way to fund the project, since the family did not have the money to build a ramp.

Tom Stevens, director of the USDA office in Presque Isle, said while the couple met some of the requirements for aid, such as income level, other factors prevented the government agency from being able to help.

“They rented, rather than owned, the home they live in. That meant we’d have to calculate eligibility based on the landlord’s income rather than theirs,” said Stevens. “The landlord gave his approval for the ramp but USDA couldn’t provide funding.”

Stevens, wanting to do something to help Dyer and her husband, volunteered to make a few calls to see if he could find a way to get the structure built.

“I helped coordinate the project by making calls and lining up volunteers to construct and install the ramp. It’s been a year in the making but in June the couple’s dream became a reality,” said Stevens, noting his efforts were entirely voluntary and not performed as part of his duties with USDA.

Stevens contacted Northern Maine Community College and was able to line up Guy Jackson, the building trades instructor, as well as several of Jackson’s students to design and build the ramp.

“An anonymous source funded the materials and Jackson and his students provided the labor, free of charge,” said Tim Crowley, NMCC president.

Once completed, the structure then had to be moved to the Westfield home, located on Egypt Road.

After delivery, an instructor and students from Job Corps installed it.

“Soderberg Construction, of Caribou, transported the sections of the ramp to the home in mid-June. Job Corps volunteers then spent a couple days putting the ramp in place,” said Stevens.

Dyer said her husband had a hand in the project from the beginning.

“My husband drew a rough draft in the beginning. We actually expected something smaller. What we got is quite impressive and much easier to access,” said Dyer.

The ramp should last for some time, since it was created using pressure-treated lumber.

Mark Brewer, carpentry instructor for the Home Builders Institute at Loring Job Corps in Limestone, was on-site to oversee installation.

“Guy and his students at NMCC built the ramp. My students put it together on-site. It was a volunteer effort and good for the community. It’s good for the students to be involved in projects like this — to give back,” said Brewer.

Dyer said although her husband can still walk, climbing stairs has become extremely difficult.

“The ramp will make it easier for him to get in and out of the house. It allows him to maintain his independence,” she said. “This far surpasses our expectations.”

“This project was done for an excellent cause. We’re glad to have been a part of it,” said Brewer.

Dyer said she and her husband appreciate everyone’s help.

“We want to thank all who were involved in making this happen. Without everyone’s help, we never would have been able to get this done,” said Dyer.

Thanks to the kindness of strangers and the family’s patience and perseverance, Dyer’s husband no longer faces the difficulty of traveling up and down steps and one of the major obstacles to his daily mobility has vanished.

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