'Sawing Circle' helps community by building handicap ramps

'Sawing Circle' helps community by building handicap ramps

In the hallway of the LaFollette United Methodist Church, a bulletin board is covered with announcements. There are notices of meetings and mission work being done through out the world.

However, in the upper right hand corner is a small thank you card with a sizeable message.

“Without the help of four wonderful guys I would have never have had the joy of getting in our backyard,” Lynda Barnes penned on the inside of the card.

Her gratitude is for the men who comprise the LaFollette UMC Sawing Circle, a mission group created by the church 15 months ago. The men of the Sawing Circle have one goal in mind, to help people get in and out of their homes with as few obstacles as possible.

In order to accomplish this, the men have embarked on a series of projects, mostly building wheelchair ramps for those who don’t have the means to construct the ramps on their own.

On Tuesday evening, Charles Middleton expressed the same appreciation Barnes did in her note.

“To have somebody reach out and help you like that, it just blesses me, buddy,” Middleton said.

The ramp being constructed at the Middleton’s Valley View Estates home is significant for a number of reasons. Not only is it the 30th project completed by the Sawing Circle, it is the largest ramp they have built to date.

When the group first encountered the Middleton’s porch the ramp would be attached to, they were worried. The front of the porch sits at least 15 feet off the ground and the home sits on a slopped lot.

However, the Sawing Circle was committed to help the family.

Middleton suffers from COPD, continuously wears an oxygen tank and has heart problems, said Marie Kile, chair of the LUMC Missions Committee. He has extremely limited mobility as a result.

Determined to increase Middleton’s access to the outdoors, and after a bit of brainstorming, the men had a design ready.
The ramp leaves the right of the porch with a long gangplank that stops at a landing. From there, another long section of the ramp turns back towards the house stopping just short of the wall. It then finishes with an incline to the home’s driveway.

“I just don’t have the words for it,” Middleton said of the work being done on his behalf.

“Methodists take a vow of membership to serve Christ and the church with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. The men and women who participate in the Sawing Circle are one of the best examples I have ever seen of honoring that commitment,” said Dr. Kenny Faught, LUMC pastor.

The Sawing Circle has received grant funding in the last year that has enabled it to build the ramps at no cost to the recipients, said Kile. It also works closely with Council on Aging as a source of revenue and referrals.

While no two projects the group undertakes is the same, they do have a common theme. They are always constructed to meet ADA specifications, Kile said.

“This is not a ministry which grew out of a committee meeting or a pastor’s suggestion. It came in response to a real need in our community and it expresses both the heart of the church and the hearts of those who build the ramps,” Faught said.

“It’s nice just to talk to those guys,” Middleton said.

Reposted with permission from the LaFollette Press.