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Students build wheelchair ramp for San Marcos family


News 8 Austin (07/28/2006)
by Veronica Castelo

SAN MARCOS — The stairs at Velma Villa's house in San Marcos have frustrated her for more than 20 years. Her daughter Alicia is handicapped and bound to a wheelchair. Going to the store can take hours.

“Especially when it rains, it's a lot of hassle because I'm scared
to slip with her,” Villa said.

Velma is a single mother with piles of medical bills who could never afford to build a handicap-accessible ramp. Thanks to Texas State University students, she won't have to.

A program called Safe at Home uses volunteer students and donated materials to build handicap-accessible ramps.

Safe at Home is grant-funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Texas Long Term Care Institute. It's a volunteer program aimed at reducing the risk of death and injury from falls in the home. The program focuses on people who are at high risk for falls, mainly the elderly and disabled members of the community.

Since its inception in 2000, volunteers have built five ramps and helped clear cluttered hallways, installed fire detectors and made many homes more handicap accessible.

McCoy’s Building Supply donates the materials for the projects. Seth Lawhead of Lawhead General Contracting donates his tools and expertise to guide students who give up their time.

Villa was overwhelmed watching the volunteers tear up her stairs to make room for the new ramp.

“There are a lot of people who don’t even care if you have a handicap or not. They don’t want to bother. Seeing all these people makes me happy. I can see that they are loving, caring
people,” she said.

Safe at Home program director Jana Lee said it's easy to give up a day for something so important.

“You wouldn't think a simple thing as a ramp would have such a
huge impact on someone's life but it will. It will help Velma. It
will help her daughter out. It feels really good,” she said.

Villa finally got to take her daughter down the new ramp after a day's worth of excitement.

“Finally I can wheel her down with no worries of me falling. I
thank God that finally, finally God answered my prayers,” she said.