TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A group of East Texans has made it their mission to change lives in a matter of hours. Volunteers from several Smith County churches are constructing wheelchair ramps for the elderly and those with disabilities.
George Cronin helps coordinate area construction groups for the Texas Ramp Project, a non-profit that serves more than 190 counties.
In East Texas, several churches organize volunteers to support the cause. Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, and other Christians work side-by-side to assist their neighbors in need.
"The first year we started this, we did quite a few. We did 37 ramps." Cronin said. "Last year, we did 97."
Jerry Sandlin's house in Tyler is the 71st ramp built in East Texas since the beginning of the year. By December, the group expects to complete more than 120 ramps.
Volunteer Mike Allgaier first got involved three years ago. Since retiring, he has more time to help and participates monthly.
"I definitely believe in the power of prayer and I think this is a living example right here."
Allgaier says most volunteers don't have any previous construction experience.
"On our team, everybody has their little job and knows what they're good at and what they're not. All you need is a pair of hands and a will to do it."
Jason Trimble, who has helped with dozens of projects, says the physically demanding work is building bridges among East Texans of different faiths.
"It's a blessing to pour out to be a part of the community this way with other believers who do it for the same purpose. And that's to give glory to God through serving people."
Churches, foundations, and individuals also open their wallets to support the project financially. Each ramp requires hundreds of dollars in supplies and materials.
"It's just a scramble that comes from a lot of different places," Cronin said.
Most clients are referred through social workers or healthcare professionals.
Before receiving a ramp, Sandlin had been confined to his home due to mobility issues. His goddaughter Dina Golden says he'll now be able to leave his home without assistance.
"It makes me want to cry because he's my godfather. He's been there before anyone was. And that's a true blessing."
Golden said health concerns had been a source of stress. "And I told Jerry, I said, "If you pray about it, God will answer our prayers. And God did.'"
After testing his ramp for the first time, Sandlin spent time thanking the volunteers, asking for a picture to post on Facebook, and exchanging hugs.
He said this generosity will be an important part of his spiritual journey.
"God to me to tell you, 'Keep on doing what you're doing. Keep on doing what you're doing,'" Sandlin said.
Since 1985, Texas Ramp Project has constructed more than 11 thousand ramps across the state. In East Texas, ramps are being built in the following counties: Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Franklin, Gregg, Henderson, Hopkins, Kaufman, Smith, Titus, Upshur, and Van Zandt