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Volunteers build ramps to assist local families


Christopher Andersson

Volunteer Mitchel Pierce secures a support plank during the Master Builders Association Rampathon on May 21.

Seven-year-old Chevi Jefferson, of Arlington, who was born with spina bifida and club feet, will now be able to get around her home because of local volunteers who built her family a ramp as part of the Master Builders Association Rampathon.

The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish County held their annual Rampathon on May 21, helping 37 families across the two counties.

Arlington local Kathy Farrell is the recipient of one of those ramps. Farrell takes care of her niece, Chevi Jefferson, who cannot support her own weight without braces.

This makes leaving their home a chore as Chevi has to be carried down stairs. "I had no idea how many times I was lifting her a day," said Farrell.

The Master Builders Association would've never known about Chevi and her family if it wasn't for the efforts of Chevi's bus driver though.

"I was watching auntie and uncle bring her down their steps, and it rains in this state and so it gets slippery," said Dana McCollum, a bus driver for the Arlington School District.

"So there was risk for her safety, as well as auntie and uncle's safety, so I would literally hold my breath."

McCollum didn't know of the Rampathon at the time, but started looking for local groups like church organizations or Boy Scout troops that might take on the project, however most said it would be too expensive for them to take on.

One day though, McCollum overheard a conversation about the Rampathon on the radio and started searching online.

"By that time I had known the family for a few months and I asked them 'would you be offended, would you be okay if I looked for these resources for you?' and they didn't even know that was something you could do," said McCollum.

McCollum filled out an application for the family and wrote a letter as well, and Chevi was chosen as one of the projects for this year's Rampathon shortly after.

"She really deserves having this. She wants to be independent," said McCollum.

McCollum said that she's become friends with Chevi since she began picking her up in the fall. "Right away you could tell she was a very active little girl, very social," she said. "You could see her disability didn't affect her and she was very open about talking."

Farrell describes her as a "very giving child ... she insists she has to write a note to this person or that person."

She's also happy that it will allow Chevi more independence. "It will give her more freedom, because right now she's totally dependent on us to get her in and out of the house," she said.

Volunteers came from the community and the Master Builders Association to help build the ramp.

"What I like about it is that it's meeting a need, and it's a very concrete need. You come in and build someone a ramp which improves their life," said Eric Wallace, the organizer of the ramp building at Chevi's house.

"I just like helping out and volunteering," said volunteer Mitchel Pierce. "Construction isn't too hard, it's just something simple like building a ramp and it's really vital for someone who can't go up stairs," he said.

"This is just to do something good for the community. I had a free Saturday and figured I'd spend it out here," said volunteer Ricardo Banuelos.

Hardware, wood and supplies for the project were also provided by Arlington Hardware and Dunn Lumber.

Farrell also said there was not enough thanks she could give to the people who helped her.

Christopher Andersson

Seven-year-old Chevi Jefferson, of Arlington, paints some wood during the Master Builders Association Rampathon on May 21 in which volunteers built a ramp for Chevi's family.

"We've been in Arlington since 1974 and we've helped in the community with 4-H and FFA, and you just take it for granted that you give and now someone's giving back to us," she said.

"For someone to donate that for this baby and us, there's just no words and I hope that we can give back some day," she said.

In addition to the Arlington ramp-building project, the Master Builders Association sponsored two more ramps that were built on May 21 in Marysville, and an additional ramp in Marysville that will be built at a later date.

Those ramps are going to support two families with children who live with cerebral palsy and one individual who is no longer able to use stairs because of her age.

This year's 37 ramps was the most the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish County had ever built since they began the Rampathon in 1993.


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