“You see a need, that’s why we do it” – Volunteers build wheelchair ramp in Brownwood home


If 70-year-old Maria Gage hadn’t said a word, her beaming smile easily conveyed her message of thanks.

Sitting in her wheelchair outside her Brownwood home, Gage thanked the 13 volunteers Saturday afternoon who’d just finished building a ramp from a side door of the home she shares with her husband, James, to the yard.

“Thank you so much,” Gage repeated as she grasped the hands of the volunteers.

The 13 volunteers — representing the Pecan Valley Kiwanis Club, the Brownwood Municipal Police Association and Austin Avenue Church of Christ — built the ramp as part of the nonprofit Texas Ramp Project. The young son of one of the volunteers was among the workers.

The project at the Gages’ home in the 500 block of Seventh Street began Saturday morning as volunteers parked a caravan of vehicles and unloaded tools, equipment and lumber. Three hours later, the ramp had been completed. James Wells pushed his wife in her wheelchair down the ramp as the volunteer laborers stood near her. The volunteers applauded as Maria Gage showed them she could stand and take a few slow steps.

“We had fun at it,” Morris Horton, a Pecan Valley Kiwanis Club member and Texas Ramp Project area coordinator for Brown and Coleman counties, told Gage.

A few minutes later, Horton referred to Gage and said, “That’s why we do it. You see a need, that’s why we do it. It gives us the opportunity to serve God and the people of Brownwood and Brown County.” 

A message on the Texas Ramp Project’s website states:

“Have you ever changed a person’s life in a single day? The Texas Ramp Project does it hundreds of times a year. We build wheelchair ramps for older adults and others with mobility issues who can’t afford to buy one. In a few hours on a Saturday morning, we give these folks the freedom to leave their home again — the home where they want to remain but whose steps have imprisoned them. Ramps are provided without regard to age, gender, religion, race or ethnicity.” 

 The Texas Ramp Project had its beginning in 1985 when Kiwanis Club members in Richardson were asked to build a wheelchair ramp for a friend. The project was incorporated into a nonprofit in 2006. In 2023, Texas Ramp Project volunteers built their 26,000th ramp, which, if laid end to end, would extend for 133 miles.

Texas Ramp Project ramps follow ADA guidelines of 1 foot of slope for every inch of elevation. The ramps are built of pressure-treated lumber and are 48 inches wide, the Texas Ramp Project website states.

At Tuesday morning’s Brownwood City Council meeting, Brownwood police detective James Wells, who is president of the Brownwood Municipal Police Association, addressed council members. Wells said the BMPA wants to get young officers out into the community, working on projects. Wells said the association is interested in a tree-planting project.

Wells also referred to Saturday’s ramp project at the Gages’ home, where five officers were among the volunteers. “I heard them, many times, say how better they felt, how good they felt,” Wells said of the officers. “That’s something we’re looking forward to with this tree project. It’s healing for them and healing for our community.”

Brownwood Bulletin, February 29, 2024