In 2017, Smith County Juvenile Services teamed up with the Texas Ramp Project, Camp Tyler and PATH to help build 20 ramps for children, the elderly and the disabled.
Smith County Juvenile Services staff members and juvenile probationers helped construct 16 ramps for the Texas Ramp Project in 2017, as well as one for People Attempting to Help (PATH). They also built three ramps and repaired another at Camp Tyler this year, David Peters, vocational instructor for Smith County Juvenile Services, reported.
On Dec. 21, Peters, Juvenile Services Director Ross Worley and Smith County Court-at-Law No. 3 Judge Floyd Getz took five of Juvenile’s HOPE Academy residents to Camp Tyler, where they ended the year by building three ramps on cabins there.
Peters said they plan to return to Camp Tyler this year to do a ramp repair and do some concrete work.
HOPE Academy is a residential program for male juvenile offenders, focusing on behavior modification and family/parent relationships.
“I think that the guys absolutely enjoyed being out there at Camp Tyler, Judge Getz said. “For a few of them that had been there in the fifth grade, it brought back good memories. As the day came to a close, I let them know just how much I appreciate what they did and the long-term impact that kind of thing has on so many people, especially those with disabilities.”
Juvenile Services has been working to help build ramps for the Texas Ramp Project since 2015.
George Cronin, local coordinator for the Texas Ramp Project, has said most of the people they help are in wheelchairs and do not have a ramp at all, or their ramp has deteriorated so much it has become dangerous. “For somebody who doesn’t have the wherewithal financially to do it, it’s real important,” he said of building the ramps.
To some of the people living by themselves, building a ramp could mean keeping them in their own home and out of a nursing home, Cronin said.
Peters contacted Cronin in 2015, after learning of the organization. Since then, they have worked with the Texas Ramp Project 39 times.
Peters said they have constructed ramps for those in need all over Smith County, as well as some in Van Zandt and Henderson counties. They have also taken the kids to Cronin’s shop to prefabricate frames for other ramp-building teams to use, he added.
“This partnership has proven to be a great opportunity for us to link our community service program with our vocational program, and we hope to continue for many more years,” Peters said. “Getting out in the community and providing a ramp for an individual who was house-bound before, and see their joy and gratefulness is such a blessing.”
Peters said they installed a ramp for a 60-year-old woman in December who told them she had been worried the night before because her dog was lost and she could not make it out of her house to search for him. When the ramp was completed, she was very happy, Peters said.
“Our staff gets involved and has learned a lot, right along with the kids,” Peters said. “The impact on the kids is very positive … they show pride in what they have accomplished.”
With headquarters in Richardson, Texas Ramp Project is a volunteer-led nonprofit organization that builds ramps for people in need all over the state. The local division covers Smith, Henderson and Van Zandt counties.
Through donations from churches and various community organizations, as well as people who volunteer their time, the handicap ramps are constructed at no cost for the people who need them, Cronin has said.
According to Cronin, 149 local residents have received ramps in 2017, because of Smith County Juvenile Services and several other organizations and volunteers who donate their time.
For more about the Texas Ramp Project, visit www.texasramps.org.
Smith County Juvenile Services is looking for more partnerships like the ones it has with Camp Tyler and the Texas Ramp Project. In September 2017, it began a partnership with PATH (People Attempting to Help) to work on their 50 transitional homes, Peters said. The kids have installed a ramp, removed and rebuilt a small roof, replaced windows and trim and installed flooring. Peters said they are attempting to have the kids do something with PATH once a month.