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Ramps to Freedom

Firefighter/paramedic leads building efforts to assist wheelchair-bound residents.

When Jake A. Powell, a firefighter and paramedic who attends First Assembly of God in Chillicothe, Ohio, learned about a man renovating houses for veterans and the disabled, something inside him sparked.

Powell approached his pastor, H. Shaun Howard, with a burden to offer similar services to individuals in the area. Initially, he focused on repairing and renovating homes for disadvantaged individuals. But the vision quickly narrowed to serving the physically impaired by building Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant wheelchair ramps. To date, Powell, with help from anywhere from two to eight volunteers, has built 14 wheelchair ramps through 2B3N Ministry (2 boards, 3 nails).

“People have sometimes been trying to find help for years,” says Powell, 28. “Big ministries are often unable to help, but we’re a small ministry from a local church, and we can help by building wheelchair ramps for free and talking to people about Jesus.”

Powell built his first ramp in June 2018 for Howard’s stepfather, Kevin Reed. Diagnosed with chronic inflammatory lung disease while also battling liver and kidney failure, Reed had gone into hospice care at home. Although no one asked Powell to help, after learning of Reed’s situation, he stepped up to offer his services.

During their initial conversation, Reed mentioned that he wanted nothing more than to be able to leave his home to see his grandson play baseball. With that in mind, Powell and his team of volunteers worked quickly to build the ramp. Reed made it to his grandson’s game the following day.

“The ramp made it possible for dad to get out and see the game,” says Howard, 40. “Dad died six days after the ramp was finished.” Howard’s mom, Renna, who also suffers with health challenges, continues to benefit from the ramp.

As the ministry grew, so did support from the local community of 21,700. As word spread about 2B3N, churches in the city donated money and volunteers to meet the growing requests for wheelchair ramps. Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, a fast-food chain, also supports the ministry, delivering free meals to volunteers on build days. Even the mayor’s office and city building department extended their support, waiving permits and fees to allow Powell to build unhindered.

2B3N makes a profound difference in the quality of life for the ministry’s recipients. Dan Jacobs, a retired union carpenter, suffered a series of heart attacks and a stroke after he retired, leaving him dependent on a wheelchair to get around. Unable to safely leave the house without help, an ambulance drove him to doctors' appointments and hospital visits. Powell and his team of volunteers happily helped to build a ramp.

The night before the build at Jacobs’ home, Powell dropped off the building materials in the front yard so volunteers could get an early start the next morning. Throughout the construction day, Powell noticed Jacobs nodding off. He later learned why. Jacobs stayed awake all night, staring out the window to make sure no one stole the materials. He didn’t want anyone to take away his freedom.

“We need to bring what we celebrate every Sunday to peoples’ front yards in the way of service and presence,” Howard says. “Works of love and service build bridges.”

Powell has met many people through the ministry and acknowledges not everyone is open to the gospel. However, he feels strongly that it’s enough to plant a seed and trust God with the growth.

“I don’t just want to take care of people who come to our church,” says Powell. “I want to reach the people who have never seen Jesus played out in action, as we meet the needs of someone we don’t know.”

Howard agrees that congregations need to function outside their meeting places.

“Jake took a risk,” Howard says. “That’s what our faith demands.”

Mary J Yerkes

Mary J. Yerkes is a freelance writer based in metro Washington, D.C.