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Volunteers ramp up support for those in need

KristMarlow-Kellemen A Brush With Kindness coordinator for Northwest IndianHabitfor Humanity helps construct ramp with Jeff Zielinski from Prompt Ambulance Service.

Kristin Marlow-Kellemen, A Brush With Kindness coordinator for Northwest Indiana Habitat for Humanity, helps to construct the ramp with Jeff Zielinski from Prompt Ambulance Service. It is the third ramp that has been constructed through the program. Tuesday, July 9, 2013.| Carrie Napoleon~Sun-Times Media

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To request an application to qualify to have a ramp built, to make a donation or to inquire about volunteer possibilities contact Kristin Marlow-Kellemen at abwk@nwihabitat.org.

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Updated: August 12, 2013 11:28AM



GARY — A lunch-time downpour did not wash-out volunteers intent on helping Mae Gidley of Gary come home.

Gidley, a diabetic, has been staying at Lincolnshire Health Care Center in Merrillville for the past two months because health care officials say the steep steps to her 40th Avenue home must be replaced with an American with Disabilities Act compliant ramp before she can return following a health incident that left her wheelchair-bound.

Volunteers from Prompt Ambulance Service and Lincolnshire joined members of Northwest Indiana Habitat for Humanity “A Brush With Kindness” program to brave the sweltering heat and downpour Tuesday to construct the 95-foot-long ramp.

Kristin Marlow-Kellemen, program coordinator, said international Habitat started Brush with Kindness in the early 1990s but it was not until this past March that the program came to Northwest Indiana. It was originally intended to be a way for volunteers to help provide cosmetic improvements and minor repairs to qualified homeowners without the resources to do the work.

“We kicked off with the wheelchair program just because there is such a need here,” Marlow-Kellemen said.

Ron Donohue, business manager for Prompt Ambulance, said they have identified at least 72 homeowners in need of ramps at their homes. He said many of the calls the company receives are nonemergency transport calls from individuals who are unable to leave their homes in many cases because they are wheelchair bound.

If Prompt is called to the same home for a nonemergency transport two or three times in 10 days it will return to do an assessment of the home and help connect the homeowner with services they may need. Donohue said they were finding many people in need of a ramp without the resources to build one.

That is why the company decided to partner with Habitat. The partnership installed its first test ramp in December. A second ramp, the first officially constructed through the program, was built in June. It was during that construction that Gidley’s situation came to light.

Donohue brought Lincolnshire in to assist with manpower. Gidley’s daughter and son-in-law in Alabama paid for the lumber and received a donation from St. John Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 717 to help with other costs. Habitat provided other needed materials through A Brush with Kindness.

Prompt will continue to help construct at least one ramp a month in conjunction with Habitat. Both Donohue and Marlow-Kellemen said it will take more community partnerships to build the number of ramps that are needed in the area.

Donohue said he would like to see members of the health care community step up and take on construction of a ramp as a community service project. It would cost a homeowner approximately $10,000 to have a ramp like Gidley’s constructed. Volunteer labor means the ramp can be built for around $2,000. Marlow-Kellemen said the program will be able to construct as many ramps as donations and volunteers will allow.

Partnerships can be tailored to the business or organization. Marlow-Kellemen said if members of a parish, for example, would like to construct a ramp for a parishioner who qualifies for the program, she can help arrange that particular partnership. If a business wants to do a service project in the town or city where they are located, that can be arranged.

“It’s a great opportunity,” she said.

Geoffrey Caldwell, admissions coordinator at Lincolnshire, was among the volunteers. He said doing the work had special meaning because it would benefit one of the nursing home’s residents.

“It feels good. It’s obviously rewarding not only to do the work but more importantly to help Mae out and help her return home,” Caldwell said.



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