Volunteer, Community Support Strengthen PCACS Ramp Program

Portage-ramp-photoPorter County Aging and Community Services continues to serve region residents through its ramp program along with the assistance of volunteers and community support.

“Our program is an avenue to connect those in need of assistance to funding and hands-on help from volunteers to construct the ramps,” said PCACS Executive Director Bruce Lindner. “We continue to help connect resources so those individuals who face challenges from an illness or injury can access their homes.”

With a $5,000 anonymous donation, PCACS is expected to work on at least four ramps this summer, Lindner said.

Local doctor of audiology Joshua Elzinga has offered his time and expertise over the years on PCACS ramp projects, including last year along with friend Zeb McDaniel for a Portage resident who has Multiple Sclerosis.

“I’ve worked with Bruce on three different ramp projects and have volunteered on four other projects outside of the PCACS umbrella in the past,” Elzinga said. “I've also worked on Rebuilding Together projects on and off since 2000, and numerous other projects for individuals and non-profits, including a women's shelter and girls’ after-school center both in Bloomington.”

Elzinga carries on a tradition of volunteering that his family has set for generations. His great-grandpa, Martin Elzinga, was given the Distinguished Volunteer Service award from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, where he volunteered the bulk of his life after retirement.

“I volunteer because, growing up, my family taught me to help others in need. My mentors - my father, grandfather and great-grandfather - regularly lent a helping hand. This was not something that was done to brag or to make ourselves feel content, it was simply the ‘right’ thing to do. Much of what we did was for the benefit of extended family and friends,” he said. “As I grew older, I realized that many people do not have the friends and family that I was blessed with, and so I wondered who helped them. Thus, I felt compelled to help the less fortunate.”

Task Force Tips has offered a team on the United Way’s Day of Caring and beyond as the ramp projects fit members’ skill sets.

“A few years back we decided to get a team together to do a Day of Caring project. We chose the ramp project because it was something that was challenging and utilized our skills. Shortly after choosing the project, Bruce contacted us about an immediate need for a ramp that was unrelated to the Day of Caring project,” said Kim Albright, technical assistant at TFT and project team captain. “Short story, we split our group in half and did both ramps. We did get to see the person for whom we built the ramp. The sheer joy on her face as she and her dog walked up and down the ramp and gave every one of us a hug was priceless. That is why we jumped at the opportunity to do the project again.”

Albright said the team has seen first-hand how the projects can bring neighbors together.

“Mobility is one of those things that lots of us take for granted. The ability to get out of the house and do things on your own improves lives in a huge way,” she said. “A fun thing that happened with our group was that we had a couple neighbors of the people we were doing the ramp for who came over to ask what we were going. After we told them, they stayed to help. Now that’s community impact!”

Elzinga believes the impact of volunteering is felt on both sides.

“Volunteering is extremely important because many people don't have the skills or resources (money or family) to meet their own needs. Each of us receives generosity throughout our lives, so it’s only right that when we are able, we should be generous too,” he said.

“The fruits of generosity cannot be measured, and in my experience, they are multiplied back to the giver.”

For more information on the ramp program, contact Lindner at (219) 464-9736 or bhlindner@frontier.com.