To date, the Ramp It Up program run through the Broome County Council of Churches has built 78 ramps in six years. Saturday’s work at a Harpursville woman’s home will make it 79. 

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Steve Degnan’s mom is a superhero, in his eyes. The woman who raised him, his brother and two sisters has always been “sharp as a tack,” he said.

But old age and a one-year-old broken hip started taking away her ability to move around. Degnan and another person had to support 85-year-old Jeanne Marie Degnan down the four or five steps from the front porch of their shared Harpursville home to the driveway.

“She’s not very stable on a walker, and she needs the wheelchair more,” he said.

A group of Chenango Valley Central School District students and other charity organizations got together Saturday to offer Degnan and his family a helping hand in the form of a wheelchair ramp that is becoming more and more critical for Degnan’s mom getting out and about.

About a dozen members of the district’s Interact Club, a student volunteer group sponsored by the Hillcrest Rotary, dug in the dirt together to construct the 79th ramp in the six-year history of the Ramp It Up program. More than a dozen students, plus adults from the club and the high school staff, had completed much of the wooden ramp by noon, but would stay until about 4 or 5 p.m. to finish it off.

The Broome County Council of Churches started the program following the 2006 and 2011 floods that devastated the Southern Tier, said program coordinator Ron Wenzinger. This year, volunteers have built ramps for people in Whitney Point, Windsor and Vestal, among other locations.

An application process vets potential ramp recipients, factoring in medical or physical conditions, financial aid and whether an applicant uses a wheelchair or walker, Wenzinger said.

The closest Sonja Jensen has gotten to building a wheelchair ramp was constructing theater sets for the high school drama club. But the 16-year-old Chenango Valley senior and co-president of the Interact Club knows how difficult it can be to maneuver in a wheelchair.

“I worked at a summer camp for adults with physical and mental disabilities. A lot of them were in wheelchairs, and it was really hilly where we were,” she said. “I’m just happy to make it a little easier for someone.”

When Degnan’s father passed away three years ago, Degnan said his dad’s dying wish was for him to take care of his mom. Saturday’s work, he said, helped with that.

“We grew up on the south side of Binghamton, helping our neighbors,” he said. “My dad used to tell me it’ll pay off someday. These kids are proving that.”

Sara Tracey, stracey@pressconnects.com | @PSBTracey


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