• Submitted by Eric Evans

Ability 1st Breaks State Record in Accessibility Projects

Friday, September 29, and Saturday, September 30, 2017, Madison FL. Ability 1st, The Center for Independent Living of North Florida [CIL] (based in Tallahassee), in partnership with Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC) and the Madison County Rotary Club (MCRC) volunteers, completed the agency's 129th and 130th accessibility ramp projects, respectively. No other CIL in Florida has been able to obtain this level of success, and is just a cornerstone principle that Ability 1st holds to be true – North Florida Volunteers are AMAZING! PLUS – VOLUNTEERS ALWAYS GET THE JOB DONE!

The Access to Independence Program, the Ability 1st flagship (is one of over a dozen) that has now surpassed the hundredth build barrier three years running. The projects (home access ramps and accessible half steps) are built for low income persons with mobility challenges in the six-county service area (Madison, Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla, Gadsden, and Leon). The 130th build milestone comes at the close of the agency’s fiscal year (FY2017) that ended September 30th. The program, in addition to the construction of accessibility projects, also provides loans of durable medical equipment for persons with both permanent and temporary disabilities; and provides disposable medical supplies like incontinence products, for low income consumers.

Friday’s project (#129) assisted Greenville resident Barbara King by providing a safe, secure and an easy means of egress into her home. Mrs. King uses a walker or rollator to shuffle from point to point and is nearly incapable of climbing steps of any height. TCEC Field Service Supervisor Kevin Pryor, who oversees the area’s electrical needs, brought Mrs. King to the attention of Ability 1st for an accessibility project.

Upon project completion Mr. Pryor remarked, “This is fantastic, now friends & family can come assist her going to town for appointments [& personal needs], this makes it so much easier for everyone.”

“This is beautiful; I never expected anything like this! When you work all day long and all week long and then when it comes to the weekend you come in and donate your time doing something like this for little old people like me. Thank you, I appreciate this and God Bless All of You!” proclaimed Mrs. King, to the TCEC volunteers, as she took her first steps to new found freedom.

Saturday’s project (#130) assisted City of Madison resident Harry Frazier and his wife Debbie. Mr Frazier has had a recent foot amputation& his wife is having difficulties with walking too. Their concrete steps had become a physical barrier nearly trapping them into their home. The project was completed by members of the Madison County Rotary Club under the leadership of Wayne Conger.

“The Rotary Club practices: ‘Service Above Self,’” Mr. Conger stated. “We collaborate on community projects that have a real, lasting impact on people’s lives. We apply our professional experience and personal commitment to tackle our communities’ most persistent problems, finding new, effective ways to enhance health, stability, and prosperity,” he added.

“They did a ‘Dern’ Good Job,” exclaimed Harry Frazier when asked what he thought of his new landing and ramp. “This is ‘Jam Up’; I thank ya and appreciate it [ramp].” His wife Debbie will benefit from the ramp as well, as her mobility has become uneasy, particularly when climbing any type of steps.

The Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TCEC) serves over 12,500 members throughout Jefferson, Madison, Taylor and Dixie Counties. “As an electric cooperative, we are guided by seven principles; number 7 is Concern for Community. Volunteering in the communities we serve is just one of the many ways we are committed to that principle,” Kaitlynn Culpepper, TCEC Community Relations Specialist provided. “[Additionally,] we have a corporate responsibility to give back and improve the quality of lives within our communities. By volunteering, our employees benefit greatly by the valuable experiences that reinforces what an electric cooperative means to the local communities.”

“The MCRC [Rotary] is a key partner of the Access to Independence Program building home access projects within the Madison County area. Their continued support is paramount to the program’s success! TCEC is a new partner completing two projects within the last fiscal year and will assist the access program in our three most eastern counties (Madison, Taylor and Jefferson). Having these two incredible organizations step up and continue to serve is an extraordinary endeavor that potentially will change a lot of people’s lives; giving these consumers new found freedom and the ability to continue to live independently – a core CIL principle” said Dan Moore, Executive Director of Ability 1st.

In all six counties the need for the types of services that the Access program offers has increased exponentially. Demand will always outstrip resources, especially as the population ages and more and more citizens require assistance. Ability 1st seeks continued community minded groups to come forth and give back to their communities. Without civic groups like the Madison Rotary, Tri-County Electric Coop, area churches, school clubs, businesses and others willing to step up to build better home access and provide the necessary financial support, then these same consumers, who need help so desperately, will have very limited choices to choose from. Now is the time to volunteer!

Friday’s #129 build had 11 TCEC employees from linemen, engineers, and administrative personnel build Mrs. King’s 7 foot wide by 6 foot long landing and 12 foot ramp in just over six hours.

Saturday’s #130 project had five MCRC members build the Frazier’s 5 foot wide by 6 foot landing and 24 foot ramp in under nine hours. More volunteers definitely shorten the project’s completion time. Also notable: the MCRC built the #100 Access Project in the City of Madison back on June 25, 2017 that set a record of building 100 projects in less than nine months. Madison Rotarians lead the way.

Pressure treated lumber used at both projects was delivered by Madison Builders under Jeff Rykard’s management (25 years and counting); a family owned and operated business since the mid 1970s.


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