The 71-member VFW Post #7764 of Reidsville is making a huge positive difference for those in our county who have found themselves in need of a ramp for accessibility to their home.
Several members of this active group attended the Glennville Rotary Club meeting of Wednesday, October 18, 2023, and shared their many projects. Ronnie Thomas, Quartermaster; Ronnie McCall, Commander; Bobby Kennedy, Senior Vice Commander; Wayne Campbell, Junior Vice Commander; Gina Hall, Post Service Officer; Joe Boyett, Auxiliary President; and Jackie Trim, Chaplain, were among those who attended. Ronnie Thomas served as spokesperson.
As Ronnie McCall introduced his fellow VFW members, he commented that they have been referred to as the Ugly Angels and that they are not offended by this description. Their goal is to raise funds for the provision of ramps for those who are wheelchair bound. He mentioned that these ramps can cost up to $5000, but that the group's diligence has allowed them to find more economical ramps. For instance, when Canoochee EMC Foundation gave the group a $5000 contribution, the VFW members found a way to stretch that to provide for five ramps.
Fundraisers help provide the money for the ramps, with modifications often needed and the transportation of the ramps provided by the VFW members. These fundraisers have included bike rallies, Boston butt sales, sales of grilled chicken dinners, Buddy Poppy sales, and whatever way the group can get together and host an event.
However, their most recent fundraiser of chicken dinners was to provide helmets for the North Tattnall Middle School football team.
Even though providing ramps is their main service project, they respond to whatever cause when needed.
Also, even though veterans are able to secure a ramp if needed, the wait may be up to six weeks or longer, and many times the veteran may need the ramp immediately so as to have access to the entrance to his/her home.
"People are usually generous. Just last year, the raffle of a cake at one of our events brought $1100 for a young lady who needed financial assistance for her debilitating condition," said Thomas.
"Another young boy, Bentley, has spinal bifida and needed the ramp for his wheelchair. He had grown to the point that his mother could no longer lift him from the car and carry him into their home. We were glad to be able to provide this ramp for Bentley," he said.
As veterans, these members are very patriotic, and one of their projects is the placement of an 11 foot x 19 foot American flag on the second floor of the front of the Tattnall County Courthouse. They also place the American flags on the grounds of the Courthouse Square that are so pretty for national holidays.
"We know we have answered prayers, such as a Bellville resident who had spent 17 days in the hospital and was in need of a ramp to be able to come home. We only had one day's notice, but we had it in place ten minutes before she arrived home," said Thomas.
Another response was to a Hillview resident who had an unfortunate accident with a lawn mower that had turned over onto the person, and a ramp was needed...and provided by the VFW members.
They are extremely resourceful, even traveling to Blackburg, South Carolina, to retrieve a usable ramp discarded in high weeds that they were able to salvage and reuse.
Providing a ramp for Bobby Sapp in Cobbtown was a challenge, but the group persevered by making a new configuration for the aluminum ramp with a wooden addition.
Donna and Abe Boyett also allow the use of their 1949 "Elmo" to be used in parades in Cobbtown and Collins and elsewhere. Donna, who is the local president of DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), led the project of providing gift bags to 15 of the VFW members who are now shut-ins.
"David Brown's son-in-law was another individual who was helped with a ramp. He has an amputated leg and was being treated for cancer when the group responded to his need for a ramp. VFW member Devin Jarriel's father, Don Jarriel, who suffers from COPD, was also assisted with a ramp," said Thomas. Another beneficiary of their kindness and skills is Ingrid Davis of Glennville.
The VFW members are grateful for any assistance rendered them, and this includes that of the Junior ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) cadets from Effingham County, who they presented certificates of appreciation for their help in the Wreaths Across America placement at the Georgia Veterans Cemetery in Glennville.
They are especially attuned to those veterans who die without family nearby, such as Mr. Pollack who died at Glenvue Health & Rehabilitation and whose family was not here. They provided a service complete with an Honor Guard and a message by a pastor, and then proceeded to continue to the Georgia Veterans Cemetery where his remains were interned.
"We always ask that when the ramp is no longer needed that one of our members be contacted so that it can be used again, or repurposed," added Thomas.
Overall, the group has probably placed over 60 ramps in the last five years, with 32 or more of those ramps still being used today.