Churches come together to provide ramp for Mahomet resident


This is a story about a ramp, but the ramp really isn’t the story.

A wooden ramp was constructed last week at the Elm Street residence where Betty Brainerd has lived for almost 47 years.

“It was something I needed,” said Brainerd, 82. “It’s hard for me to be stable enough to go up and down steps. I couldn’t go outside unless someone was with me.”

Brainerd is a member of the Mahomet United Methodist Church, but this wasn’t strictly a MUMC project.

She lives by the First Baptist Church, but it wasn’t totally orchestrated by that church either.

“Four different churches were involved,” said Gerry White, a MUMC member.

The project was the epitome of a village coming together to help one of its own.

“I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own financially,” Brainerd said.

For “several years,” Brainerd said, she had been hoping to find a way to make it happen.

“I kept asking God about it,” she said.

Brainerd had been in touch with Vi Wilson, the president of the women’s Legion Auxiliary. Wilson contacted White, and White got in touch with Dan Theobald.

“She said, ‘Betty needs a ramp,’ and  I said, ‘OK’ “ Theobald said.

“The week before (construction), we talked about how I wanted it and he drew up plans,” Brainerd said.

“I took measurements and got a (materials) quote from Kirchner’s,” Theobald said.

Theobald spoke with First Baptist pastor Brian Romanowski, who didn’t need any coaxing to get involved.

“I started on this journey about 20 years ago when I lived in Bloomington-Normal,” Romanowski said. “We’re taught to be citizens in the kingdom of heaven.

“Be one. Be united. I firmly believe when there is an opportunity to work together, we should do that and use our gifts to be a blessing to others.”

The labor — of approximately a dozen volunteers — was donated, but the cost of materials was close to $1,300.

MUMC accepted a goodwill offering at a meal to welcome new pastor Craig Sweet. The United Methodist women donated and so did the Legion Auxiliary.

There were others.

“Several groups contributed financially to make it happen,” Romanowski said.

Neither Theobald nor Romanowski are novices at building ramps. This wasn’t their first go-around.

“Word got out, and people started calling,” Romanowski said. “We do two or three a year.

“It’s an important thing for people who need it.”

Over the years, Theobald estimates he has helped build eight to 10 ramps.

“God has given us different talents and building is one of the talents He gave me,” Theobald said.

“Using that talent in His service is a no-brainer when we hear of a child of God in need.”

Some of the workers at Brainerd’s house were ones who previously had a family member benefit from a ramp build. Theobald said anyone could eventually find themselves in a position of need.

“There might come a day I need help,” he said.

The ramp, which covers a part of the north and east sides of the house, measures 31 feet and includes handrails.

Brainerd likes the fact that it can be re-used.

“It’s not attached to the house, so after I’m through with it, they can dismantle it and use it somewhere else,” Brainerd said.

Romanowski, who has been in Mahomet 11 years, is not surprised by the willingness of community members from different affiliations joining forces for all or part of the three-day project.

“It’s one of those things where God brings people together,” Romanowski said.

Brainerd said it’s difficult for her to express her appreciation in words.

“When you’re old and have given all your life, it’s hard to be on the receiving end of something,” Brainerd said. “I am very thankful.

“It gives me more independence. I can walk outside now. Eventually, I plan to go across the road and use the sidewalk.”

The ramp serves as a path on which Brainerd can walk, but also as a metaphor for the journey of area residents who assisted in putting it together.

“People are very helpful, if you just ask,” White said. “People volunteered and showed up to work.”

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