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Kentucky church ministry builds 1,000th ramp for those in need

The Reidland United Methodist Men Ramp Ministry, based in Paducah, Kentucky, is pictured here on the 1,000th ramp that they have built, which was completed on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. From left to right: Keith Williams, Jason Nichols, Vince Kahne, Morison Williams, Mallory Williams, Danny Morris, Chuck Bearden, Ed Bach, Jason Moore, and Joe Burkhead. | Courtesy Joe Burkhead

A Kentucky church's ministry founded in the 1990s to build handicap-accessible ramps has just completed the construction of its 1,000th ramp.

The Reidland United Methodist Men Ramp Ministry, based in Paducah, built the 1,000th ramp on Wednesday, having built ramps for people in need in the western Kentucky area since they launched in 1995.

Joe Burkhead, the head of the ramp-building ministry who has been a volunteer with them since its inception, told The Christian Post that the group started out as an extension of Reidland UMC’s “Helping Hands” ministry work.

“Our UMM group did a lot of help projects for our older church members,” Burkhead explained. “Our then-President Bill Thistlewood fielded a request from a community asking if we could build a handicap ramp for a person in need. Billy came to me and asked if I would take charge of that request, which I gladly did.”

Although they did not originally intend to have the ramps be a ministry unto itself, soon after finishing the first one, the UMM chapter began receiving requests from others who needed ramps.

The first year they completed five ramps, the following year they built 10, and by the eighth or so years after, they were averaging as many as 50 ramps built annually.

“We completed 60 this past year — more than I’d prefer asking our guys to do, but we’ve been swamped with requests the past year-plus, and until recently have been running three to four months behind,” Burkhead said.

Burkhead told CP that while there has been a lot of turnover with volunteers over the past 27 years and he is the last original member, he felt that “right now, we have perhaps the best core group of builders we’ve ever had.”

“We had an extended period of low numbers about three or four years ago, and I was personally really struggling to keep the ministry going. God answered some prayers, and suddenly we were up to a very solid crew again,” he said, noting that people from outside Reidland UMC are now part of the ministry.

“Our core group now includes a Roman Catholic, two Baptists, and an Independent, and we have at least three other part-timers who are not members of our church.”

Nearly all of the ramps have been built within 25 miles of the church property, although on one occasion, Burkhead recalled, they built one in Mississippi that stretched for over 100 feet and, at one point, was nearly 7 feet off the ground.

“We always hope that recipients and their relatives take away the realization that God has hands and feet at work here on Earth, and that they are the beneficiary of His love and grace, not our carpentry,” said Burkhead.

“I often tell my fellow building brothers that they deserve the privilege of heading up the ministry for a few months, just so they can experience the joy and satisfaction of recipients’ appreciation and initial reaction.”

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