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To Feel Young Again: RSVP of Albany Builds Ramps and New Lives for Fellow Vets

by Alexandra Gurnee

For an aging individual coping with the loss of mobility, lack of proper foundations in and around a home can lead to difficulties remaining independent and mobile. This is especially true of our nation's veterans and as a nation, we have a duty to take care of these individuals who have sacrificed so much for our country.

A group of seniors in Georgia, many of them veterans themselves, have found a way to help keep their fellow veterans independent. As volunteers with Sowega Council on Aging Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Albany, Georgia, they're affectionately known as the Veterans Ramp Crew.

Paul Youngblood, 81, did not know what the future held for him after a long military career with the United States Marine Corps until he stumbled across the “Veterans Building Ramps” program with RSVP. A senior himself, he understood the desire to be out of the house and connected with the community.

With a timber saw and 19 fellow veterans by his side, Youngblood works every Tuesday and Thursday building ramps for the homes of disabled veterans and diabetic hospital patients. Since 1994, volunteers have built thousands of ramps for the community of Albany. These volunteers range in age, with the oldest being an 89-year-old WWII Vet who had been a Japanese Prisoner of War.

“At first, I did it because I was bored, but once I got into it I was hooked,” said Youngblood. “Seeing someone with tears in their eyes grabs at your heart and you realize how fortunate we all are.”

In addition to their weekly builds, the ramp builders also participate in community outreach programs with churches and schools, teaching others how to build the ramps. These outreach programs have resulted in more than 100 ramps a year.

The veterans have the building down to a science.

“It's pretty easy with the diagram and measurements already set,” he said. “All of the ramps are usually about 16-feet to 24-feet long, and always 4-feet wide. It's the trailers that prove the most difficult for disabled vets, especially after the floods of 1994. A lot of those areas had to be raised higher, away from the water.”

While the program provides a service to local community members, the RSVP volunteers see benefits themselves, “Being involved in the community and giving back blesses us more than you know,” shared Youngblood.

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