A program at Grace Community Churchon Saturday night celebrated a milestone for GAP Ministries: 100 wheelchair ramps built for people in Effingham County.
While that adds up to a lot of nails hammered and beads of sweat wiped from brows, often on hot south Georgia days, the true impact of the ministry is measured another way.
A difference was made in 100 lives.
“You guys aren’t just building ramps. You’re changing lives,” Vicki Wilkerson told the assembled GAP members. Wilkerson’s son Shaw, who has autism, runs the local My Father’s House ministry and volunteers with GAP.
Building the wheelchair ramps has been “a godsend for a lot of people,” said GAP’s David Lamb.
GAP— which stands for God’s Apostles Providing — was established in November 2004 by a group of local men who wanted to do something to give back to others. They teamed up with the United Way Effingham Service Center and LIFE (Living Independence for Everyone), Inc., to provide wheelchair ramps for people with disabilities or mobility issues.
United Way of Effingham director Bonnie Dixon and LIFE, Inc., director Fran Todd presented a plaque to the GAP volunteers, commemorating the 100 wheelchair ramps the organization has built since 2005.
“These guys have given so much to so many families,” Dixon said.
Applications for wheelchair ramps are submitted to the United Way and screened by LIFE, Inc. LIFE pays for the lumber and GAP Ministries provides the labor at no cost.
The free labor from GAP enables LIFE to extend its funding to more projects. GAP’s volunteer ministry has saved LIFE more than $35,000 in labor, Todd said.
“I’m just looking forward to the next hundred (ramps),” she said with a smile.
GAP Ministries has been so busy building ramps that its celebration had to wait a few months. GAP actually completed its 100th wheelchair ramp on the Saturday before Easter, and is now up to 104.
“People asked me, ‘What are you going to do when you build a hundred?’” said Lamb. “I said, “We’re going to celebrate and build one more. Actually, we’ve built four more.”
GAP Ministries is not part of one particular church. Rather, men from several churches in Effingham County are “tied together by a faith-based ministry,” Lamb said.
Several of the ministry members have taken mission trips to other countries. However, GAP gives them a chance to help people right here in Effingham.
“I still go on mission trips, but the mission fields are right in our back yard,” said Keith Turner.
The GAP members joked that they didn’t really know what they were doing when they began building wheelchair ramps. What mattered, though, was that they were helping people — some of whom hadn’t been out of their houses for months because of their disability and lack of a wheelchair ramp.
These days, GAP has the construction process down pat — and the 100th ramp was as rewarding as the first.
“We enjoy it more and more every day,” Turner said.
“We’re not done yet,” Lamb said. “We have a 105th ramp set for Sept. 8.”