San Antonio Express News
Larry Milton is a man of few words but a prolific builder of ramps.
A 77-year-old retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, Milton has volunteered with the Texas Ramp Project since the nonprofit organization held a briefing in San Antonio in the late 1980s. Milton, a member of Kiwanis International, attended the meeting with two other members. Those two friends began building ramps in San Antonio in 1987, and within a year, Milton was working alongside them.
The Texas Ramp Project began as the Dallas Ramp Project — a program organized by the Kiwanis Club of Richardson. The group identified a need, and the project grew rapidly. The Texas Ramp Project builds “wheelchair ramps for disabled or elderly people who can’t afford to buy one,” according to the organization’s website, texasramps.org. Since its founding, the nonprofit has built more than 11,900 ramps, totaling more than 59 miles all across Texas.
Milton, an area coordinator for the organization, said he’s taken part in the construction of some 1,300 ramps in Bexar County. Reaction from those who have received the liberating infrastructure has ranged from a simple “thanks” all the way to tears, Milton said.
“Look at those people who are trapped in their house simply because they can’t get out, and if they have to get out, they call on emergency services for an extra fee,” he said. “It gives a person a sense of freedom, of being back in the community.”
Bruce Johnson, a friend and fellow ramp builder, said Milton works “extremely hard” for an organization that is “very meritorious… and high-minded.”
“He’s just a very caring person when it comes to children or elderly or handicapped people,” Johnson said. “He has to work in an environment in which he’s constantly confronted with problems.”
Dealing with an all-volunteer crew, Johnson said, can be difficult because “we get last-minute surprises,” such as volunteers canceling at the last minute. But it doesn’t faze Milton.
Milton says he’s still going strong and plans to continue building ramps and organizing projects “until my body says to stop.” He said he’s lost a couple longtime volunteers to life’s wear and tear.
“Age has gotten them to where they can’t lift a load and move around, which is a shame because they still want to be in the middle of it,” he said.
Milton credits the organization’s volunteers for its success.
“The volunteers that come out — we have over 30 teams that build with us regularly,” he said, “some of them twice a month, some of them two to four times a year.”
The Texas Ramp Project receives funding from a number of organizations, including the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, the Orsinger Foundation, the Greehey Family Foundation and several other companies and churches. Individual donations may be made through the Texas Ramp Project’s website.