SAWs Ramps and Partnerships

By Tim Thurston

Meet Eugene, an 80-year-old Navy Vet who lives alone in Mooresville. This is his new ramp SAWs placed in late July.

One of the best things about building ramps is witnessing a person’s joy in getting in and out of a home safely.

So, how does this happen? What gives SAWs the opportunity to do this?


These partnerships make this happen. From our referral partners, to our network of volunteers, to lumber suppliers, and finally to service-minded groups working collectively to get Eugene this ramp.

We are fortunate to have built relationships with community members statewide that allow us to transform people’s lives. For example, we have a network of referral agencies that alert us to ramp needs. Grace-At-Home referred Eugene to SAWs. They provide house calls to homebound or home-limited patients and recognized the need for Eugene’s safety.

Once SAWs receives a referral, our team of volunteers takes over. Eugene was contacted by one of our Customer Service Representatives to verify and validate all information provided in the ramp application. Another volunteer sent a waiver form to Eugene as well as received written permission from his landlord to build a ramp. Our volunteer Site Surveyor made an appointment with Eugene to visit at his home so measurements and pictures could be taken to design his ramp. Next, our Ramp Designer created a materials list and fabrication plan for Eugene’s ramp. These volunteers rock!

One of our lumber partners – Gillman Home Center Edinburgh – supplied the lumber and fasteners for Eugene’s ramp. Gillman gives SAWs special pricing for materials and we cherish how much they support SAWs’ mission.

Finally, Westlake Church Of God gathered a group of its members to build Eugene’s ramp. We met on a steamy July morning, said a prayer, and in 5 hours, built Eugene’s ramp. We called Eugene several weeks after he received the ramp to ask how it was working. He told us, “I’m very pleased with the ramp. It allows me to go outside now and enjoy the sun. It’s fantastic. I could not do that with a ramp. I no longer fear falling.”

It is through these partners – statewide – that SAWs fulfills its mission to provide freedom one ramp at a time. We are eternally grateful for these partnerships. Thank you for making this happen.

SAWs Partners with BraunAbility to Build 50 Free Ramps

The initiative brings freedom, accessibility, and independence to several locations across the United States.

INDIANAPOLIS, AUGUST 15, 2022: – Servants at Work, Inc. (SAWs), Indiana-based nonprofit dedicated to building wheelchair accessible ramps for people with long-term disabilities, partnered with BraunAbility, a global leader in wheelchair accessible vehicles and lifts. Together they achieved an ambitious goal: to build 50 wheelchair-accessible ramps this summer.

SAWs and BraunAbility volunteers building a new access ramp.

The two organizations have similar missions dedicated to enhancing independence for individuals with mobility challenges.

“SAWs was honored to partner with BraunAbility in celebrating their 50thanniversary. Sharing our mission with their employees and customers has brought awareness to who we are and what we specialize in, providing mobility freedom for those in need,” stated D. Michael Thompson, SAWs Executive Director.

The majority of the 50 ramps have been built in the Indiana communities where BraunAbility employees live and work, but thanks to SAWs’ operations team, affiliates, and BraunAbility’s retail network, the partnership was also able to successfully build ramps for clients in Illinois, Arizona, Michigan, and Seattle, Washington.

This challenge was the first of its kind for SAWs.  Operations Manager Tim Thurston and founder Rik Hagerty put in long hours to plan, execute and manage the logistics of scheduling manpower and materials.  Each ramp requires careful preparation, to include site surveying, technical sketches, and pre-cutting of wood planks before it can be installed on site.

“One of the most incredible things about this challenge is witnessing the awesome BraunAbility people and their affiliates stepping up and out of their comfort zone to learn how to build these ramps. We had teams in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kansas City, Seattle, Phoenix, and St. Louis” stated Tim Thurston. “These 50 clients are so appreciative to regain their freedom.”

In March and April, SAWs held a successful fundraising campaign where donors were able to have their gifts matched by a $50,000 grant from BraunAbility. SAWs supporters from across the country gave generously, which resulted in the funding of all 50 ramps.  The average SAWs ramp costs over $1,500, and of the 50 ramps built, ranged in raw material cost from $700 to $5,200.

The 50 ramps built in July and August by SAWs and BraunAbility volunteers are completely free to the recipient. Each ramp is constructed of wood and adheres strictly to ADA standards. To qualify for the ramp build, recipients must have a long-term disability and have a household income below the Area Mean Income for the state of residence.

AJ’s new ramp, thanks to ‘Send the Love’ donors

Wright ramp family and volunteers

Early Saturday morning, volunteers from Boone County, Indiana, including Zionsville Christian Church and Project Manager Larry Whinnery, arrived at the site.

5 year-old “AJ”, his dad George, mom Julie, brother George, and twin brothers (4 months old) were thrilled to see the volunteers, and AJ, as his dad said, had asked every day this week, wanting to know when SAWs was coming.

First order of business was to remove AJ’s existing ramp.  The ramp in place was a simple steep platform that had been sending the adventurous and energetic AJ into the street with velocity.  It was time for an upgrade.

AJ and his family got involved with the build. AJ loved using the impact driver, and George generously provided lunch for the crew.

After a long day of hard work, the family was left with a new 31-foot, ADA-compliant, wooden ramp that would help AJ safely get to the school bus, play outside, and ensure his parents that he could grow in independence without fear of falling off his ramp.

Wright family on their new rampAJ’s ramp was a gift from over 150 donors throughout Indiana.  In May, WTHR’s Send the Love with Scott Swan featured Servants at Work, Inc, and asked their viewers to donate $5 to help build a ramp.  The response was simply amazing.  Viewers gave from $5 to $500, and totaled $4,340, which was able to cover the costs of materials for this special ramp for AJ.

Read the WTHR article here:  Thorntown 5-year-old gets new wheelchair ramp, thanks to $5 donations.

Photo credit : Carolyn Case at Media37

Mike Thompson joins SAWs as new Executive Director

Mike Thompson

The Servants at Work (SAWs) board of directors has announced that D. Michael Thompson is the next Executive Director replacing the retiring Robert Richmond.

“I’m convinced that SAWs is the best kept nonprofit secret in Indiana, and I am here to change that,” states Thompson. Daily, I meet and speak with clients who have lost their mobility freedom. Many feel as if they are prisoners in their own homes. SAWs helps them regain their independence and quality of life by proving a wheelchair ramp no cost them. Having over 2,700 volunteers, 20 project managers, and a staff of 6, we are on track to build 400+ ramps in and around Indiana in 2022.

Mike is a graduate of Ball State University with a master’s degree in Public Affairs in Nonprofit Management from the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He formerly worked with the Western Boone Education Foundation, the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI, and Habitat for Humanity of Boone County.

Mike joined the SAWs team in the Spring of 2022, taking over for the retired Bob Richmond. With over ten years of experience, he has worked and served with several Boone County nonprofits, including Boone County Habitat for Humanity, Western Boone Education Foundation, and Indiana University – Kelley School of Business. Mike also worked for thirteen years in product/design engineering for several automotive manufacturers and suppliers in Indiana and Ohio. Mike has been married to his wife Julie for twenty-five years, with two adult sons, they are members of St. Joseph Catholic Church, and he enjoys volunteering, tinkering, innovation, and being outside.



BraunAbility Builds SAWs Ramps for Their Community

Three people standing on a wooden exterior ramp

Dave, a BraunAbility employee for over 32 years, knows the impact of SAWs.  

Homer and Virginia, Dave Hettinger’s parents, have been married for 54 years and live in the small town of Star City, in Pulaski County, Indiana. Dave describes his mother as high energy, so when Virginia’s health began to falter, the family was stressed.  Humble Hoosiers to the core, Dave’s parents were reluctant to accept help.  Virginia was facing hip surgery and the family wondered how they were going to manage. 

When Dave’s BraunAbility co-workers learned about Virginia’s struggles, they sprung into action and Human Resources Manager Kacey quickly gathered a team of BraunAbility employees, some who were life-long friends of Dave, together. Within a week, they built a SAWs ADA-compliant ramp as an addition to Virginia and Homer’s deck. 

Dave says his parents have enjoyed their ramp immensely and are able to sit outside and enjoy the night air on a warm night or travel out to have dinner with friends and family. It is a comfort to know accessibility to their home and community won’t be an issue in the future.  

A few years ago, the BraunAbility plant in Winamac made a commitment to Indiana and began building SAWs ramps for people living with long-term disabilities in low-income households.  In 2021 alone, BraunAbility employees volunteered nearly 600 hours building ramps for families in our communities.  Now, we are taking it even further. 

To celebrate BraunAbility’s 50th Anniversary, they have issued SAWs a challenge: to build 50 ramps in 50 days!  BraunAbility has pledged to match all donations to SAWs up to $50,000 to make this a reality.  Ramps will be built throughout Indiana and nation-wide, in communities where BraunAbility employees live and work.  

Visit to donate or volunteer and make sure SAWs meets the challenge to double the impact and serve 50 people in need of greater accessibility, freedom and independence in their homes.  You, too, can help people just like Virginia and her family to remain in their homes. 
Volunteers standing inform of a wooden exterior ramp to a white house.