Ramp Access Made Possible by Students (R.A.M.P.S.) is a nonprofit 501©3 community service organization that offers and provides students the opportunity to help the less fortunate by paying for and assembling wheelchair ramps for people who are in need and have qualified for financial assistance.
The program was started in 2005 by Mike Dowd, Coleman Wortham and Gray Fain. The first ramp was installed in August 2005. Since then, 30 more ramps have been donated and built by R.A.M.P.S. Approximately 150 hours have been donated by student volunteers installing ramps. R.A.M.P.S.' research shows that group living facilities cost about $34,000 per person per year in the Richmond market. Government agencies subsidized cost by 70%. When clients are able to stay in their homes, using donated wheelchair ramps, it saves taxpayers about $23,800 per person per year.
Modular ramps cost between $2,000 and $3,000 depending upon the length and complexity of the ramp. Each student group raises $600 for the ramp they plan to install. In addition, R.A.M.P.S. has secured quantity discounts from the ramp manufacturer as well as grants and business donations to cover the rest of the costs.
Students are organized into teams of 5 or 6 young men and women. Smaller schools may have one team per class; larger schools may have as many as 3 or 4 teams per class. Ramp recipients are pre-qualified by the local nonprofit groups who work with and care for the elderly. In the Richmond area, the two local nonprofits that work with elderly are Elder Homes and Capital Area on Aging.
Students coordinate the day and time to set the ramp with the recipient. They meet at the ramp site with their hand tools and assemble the ramp. The ramp is assembled with approximately 300 half-inch nuts, bolts, and washers. Upon completion, the ramp recipient is then asked to test drive the ramp several times unassisted. Telephone follow-up is made approximately 10 days later to make sure the ramp is functioning well and meeting the needs of the recipient.
October 21, 2006 was another milestone for R.A.M.P.S. The first 2006 Ramp-A-Thon was held in the Richmond metropolitan area with local television affiliates covering the event. Students from three area high schools volunteered. The students secured funding. The goal of erecting 15 was exceeded by 17 wheelchair ramps installed in the two-day period by 24 volunteer students.
Besides improving the quality of life for residents, R.A.M.P.S. also has made a significant economic impact on the community. By keeping people in their homes longer, R.A.M.P.S. has reduced housing costs for recipients who otherwise might have been moved to Medicare or Medicaid funded facilities. M Overhead expenses are kept to a bare minimum. The students have secured pro bono assistance for legal, accounting, taxes, printing, marketing and administrative services. There are no salaries involved as all students and their adult Board of Directors provide their time pro bono.