The men who make up GAP Ministries have been the unsung heroes for many years.United Way Area Director Elizabeth Waters
RINCON — GAP Ministries is a godsend for people who are challenged by the physical ups and downs of life.
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 help people in need. It teamed with United Way of the Coastal Empire-Effingham County and LIFE (Living Independence for Everyone) Inc. to provide wheelchair ramps for people with disabilities or mobility issues.
“We’re doing it for the Lord,” said seven-year GAP member Donnie Martin, who helped with the construction of the group’s 200th ramp Saturday at an Old Augusta Road residence.
Applications for GAP ramps are submitted to United Way and screened by LIFE. LIFE pays for the lumber and GAP provides the labor at no cost.
“The men who make up GAP Ministries have been the unsung heros for many years,” United Way Area Director Elizabeth Waters said. “Willingly working behind the scenes serving our community is a true testament to the character of each of these men. This type of collective action is at the heart of what United Way strives toward.
“Working together, we can make a larger impact.”
“Thanks to the dedication and hard work of the GAP volunteers, Effingham County has the shortest waiting list for wheelchair-accessible ramps out of the twenty service counties that LIFE serves,” LIFE Associate Director Angel Denardi added. “If we could replicate GAP for each of our counties, we’d be able to stretch our limited funding much farther and eventually have no waiting list at all. A ramp built by volunteers, such as GAP, represents a significant savings and means ramps, and other home modifications, could be accomplished for the nearly 150 people who are currently on our waiting list.
In emergency situations, GAP funds ramps with money donated by its members, who come from several Effingham County churches.
“God has blessed us,” Martin said. “We’ll spend money and it seems a little bit later that it always comes back to us. God provides.”
Martin said none of the men in group are carpenters by trade.
“But we can build things,” he said. “We’ve built buildings before. They are all talented men.”
GAP members, many of whom are in their 60s and 70s, don’t view ramp construction as work. Up to 15 GAP members have assisted on a ramp at one time.
“We joke with (the recipients) that we aren’t doing it for them,” Martin said. “We tell them we are doing it to come out and have fun. We all kid around with each other.
“We all enjoy it.”
Despite the relentless frivolity, GAP members realize the seriousness of their contribution.
“About four years ago, we built a ramp for a lady who hadn’t been out of her house in three years. She was 88,” Martin said. “When she came out of her house with her little walker and went down to the end of the ramp, she just bawled. “That’s what we are here for.
“That’s what it’s all about.”
After each ramp is completed, GAP members pray with the recipients.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that GAP is one of the reasons I can sleep at night,” Denardi said. “What they provide their community can’t be summed up in words but is perhaps best expressed on the faces of the ramp recipients who no longer have an accessibility barrier at their own homes. GAP is a true blessing and it was an honor to witness the buzz of activity, camaraderie, determination and dedication as they built — not only a ramp — but hope, one board at a time.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: United Way can be reached at (912) 826-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.