Transformative Impact: A Ramp’s Five-Year Journey

Every once in a while, a simple structure can make an extraordinary impact. In the summer of 2018, a simple wooden ramp came into existence. Its purpose? To provide mobility and independence to those who needed it most. Little did it know that its journey would take it through four addresses over the next five years, each with its own unique story. Behind this tale is the dedication of Project Manager and Area Coordinator, John Hunter, whose unwavering commitment made it all possible.

Jerry in Fountain County: The First Home

This sturdy ramp was born on June 11, 2018, and its first destination was Jerry’s home in Fountain County. Jerry, a kind-hearted soul, had been living with mobility challenges, and the ramp was a godsend. It allowed him to move freely and regain some of the independence he cherished. Tragically, Jerry passed away in 2019, leaving behind fond memories and the ramp that had made his life better.

Joan in Benton County: A Second Chance


After Jerry’s passing, the ramp found a new purpose when it was relocated to Joan’s home in Benton County. Joan, too, had faced mobility issues and was thrilled to receive the ramp. It served her well for over a year, but fate had another twist in store.

A Legacy of Giving: Repurposed for the Community

In 2020, Joan passed away, leaving a loving family who wanted to honor her legacy of giving. They decided to repurpose the ramp to benefit someone else in the community who needed it. This act of kindness not only celebrated Joan’s memory but also continued the ramp’s journey of bringing assistance and support to those who needed it most.

Debra in Benton County: A Second Homecoming

The ramp was then relocated to Debra’s home in Benton County, once again making a difference in someone’s life. Debra, like the others before her, found newfound freedom and accessibility thanks to the ramp. It became a symbol of hope, proving that even in challenging times, communities can come together to help one another.

Wendy in Carroll County: The Latest Chapter (2022-Present)

The ramp’s journey continued as it found its current home with Wendy in Carroll County. Wendy, who faced her own set of challenges, welcomed the ramp with open arms. With each passing year, this simple wooden structure continues to be a source of empowerment, symbolizing the strength of individuals and the support of a caring community.

John Hunter: The Driving Force Behind the Journey

None of this would have been possible without the dedication of John Hunter, the Project Manager and Area Coordinator who facilitated the construction and removal of the ramp at each location. His commitment to ensuring that the ramp found its way to those who needed it most is a testament to the spirit of volunteerism and community support that makes projects like these possible.

In its five-year journey through four different homes, this unassuming wheelchair ramp has touched countless lives, leaving a legacy of compassion, resilience, and the power of lending a helping hand. It reminds us that even in times of change and loss, the spirit of generosity and community prevails, making the world a better place, one ramp at a time.

Creating Access: What is the Proper Slope for a Wheelchair Ramp?

How to find the proper slope for a wheelchair ramp

When it comes to accessibility, a critical factor to consider is the slope of a wheelchair ramp. At Servants at Work (SAWs), we are dedicated to building ramps that provide safe and easy access for individuals with mobility challenges. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of the proper ramp slope and how SAWs ramps are designed to make a difference.

The Right Slope for a Wheelchair Ramp

The slope, or incline, of a wheelchair ramp plays a pivotal role in ensuring safe and efficient access. Ramps that are too steep can be challenging to navigate for individuals using wheelchairs, walkers, or those with limited mobility. So, what’s the proper slope for a wheelchair ramp?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, the recommended maximum slope for a wheelchair ramp is 1:12, which means that for every inch of vertical rise, there should be at least 12 inches of ramp length. This slope provides a gentle incline that allows for easy and safe ascent and descent.

Why 1:12?

The 1:12 slope is based on extensive research and is considered ideal for several reasons:

  1. Safety: A gentler slope is safer for individuals using wheelchairs or mobility aids, as it reduces the risk of tipping over backward when ascending and provides better control when descending.
  1. Ease of Use: A 1:12 slope is comfortable for users, ensuring a smooth and effortless transition between different levels or surfaces.
  1. Compliance: Following ADA guidelines ensures compliance with accessibility regulations, reducing liability and ensuring that your ramp meets legal standards.
  1. Universal Design: This slope also accommodates a wide range of mobility devices, making it versatile and user-friendly.

Calculating the Length of a Ramp:

To calculate the necessary length for your wheelchair ramp, you can use a simple formula:

Ramp Length = Vertical Rise ÷ Slope (1:12)

For example, if you have a vertical rise of 24 inches, you would need a ramp that is 24 feet long (24 ÷ 12 = 2).


While the ADA recommends a 1:12 slope, there are situations where slight deviations may be necessary due to space constraints. In such cases, it’s crucial to consult with accessibility experts to ensure the safety and usability of the ramp. Additionally, ramps should include handrails for added safety and accessibility.

Why SAWs Ramps Excel

At SAWs, we understand the significance of adhering to these guidelines. Our volunteers and carpenters meticulously design and build ramps that meet, and often exceed, ADA standards. Here’s why SAWs ramps excel:

  1. Accessibility: Our ramps are carefully constructed to provide the proper slope, ensuring anyone can comfortably access their homes and community.
  1. Safety: Safety is paramount. We use quality materials and craftsmanship to create sturdy ramps that offer stability and peace of mind.
  1. Community Impact: SAWs ramps not only enhance individual lives but also foster a more inclusive and supportive community.

How You Can Get Involved

Now, here’s where you come in! If you’re passionate about making a difference in your community, consider volunteering with SAWs. We’re always in need of dedicated individuals who share our commitment to accessibility.

Volunteer with Us – Join our team of volunteers and help us build ramps that transform lives. Register here!

If you or someone you know requires a wheelchair ramp for better accessibility, don’t hesitate to reach out. SAWs is here to help.

Apply for a Ramp – If you or a loved one needs a ramp, submit an application today, and we’ll work together to provide the access you deserve. Apply here.

At Servants at Work, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest. With your support and involvement, we can continue to create a more accessible and inclusive world, one ramp at a time. Join us in this meaningful journey today!

Leading SAWs into the Future: A Message from Executive Director Tim Thurston

New ED of SAWs Ramps Tim Thurston

Dear SAWs Nation,

I am thrilled to step into the role of Executive Director at Servants at Work (SAWs) and continue our mission of changing lives, one ramp at a time. As we embark on the second half of 2023, we have exciting changes and challenges ahead.

Let’s start with the good news! Together, we have built nearly 158 ramps throughout Indiana, restoring freedom to 158 households. This achievement would not have been possible without the exceptional project leadership and the incredible dedication of our volunteer crews. I am humbled and grateful for your contributions.

In addition, I am delighted to introduce Mr. Mike Page, our new Operations Manager. Mike brings valuable experience as a Project Manager for ramp builds in the Anderson area and North Manchester. Since joining us on July 1st, he has been actively involved in ramp build planning and coordination. Welcome, Mike!

However, we also face challenges. Our backlog of clients waiting for ramps continues to grow. With the aging population, an obesity rate of 40%, and difficulties in accessing adequate healthcare coverage, the demand for ramps has increased. We are determined to address this issue and explore ways to be more efficient and resourceful, particularly in managing the cost of lumber.

Now, we need your support more than ever. Please consider making a donation to support SAWs’ mission. Alternatively, we invite you to join us on a nearby ramp build. Bring your family and friends along, and together, let’s restore freedom to those in need.

I am excited about our future together and the impact we can create. With your help, we will secure funding, train new project leaders, attract volunteers, forge partnerships with community-minded corporations, and ultimately serve 400 clients by the end of 2023.

Thank you for your continued support and dedication to the SAWs mission. Let’s make a difference and change lives together, one ramp at a time.

With a grateful heart,

Tim Thurston
Executive Director
Servants at Work, Inc.

PS.  Make sure you signup here to get our Summer Newsletter coming out next week!


Reviving Freedom: How Freedom Chairs Gives Wheelchairs a Second Home

By Tim Balz

Freedom Chairs is a non-profit that focuses on providing mobility equipment to those who can’t obtain it through standard channels. Some of the most common scenarios in which Freedom Chairs can help are:

      • An unexpected condition causes a rapid need for equipment and the insurance process has been started, but it will take a significant amount of time
      • Situations where people don’t have insurance
      • Equipment has been damaged and the timespan for repair is months
      • Short-term conditions such as surgeries

If you need a chair for these or other appropriate reasons, you can reach out via the contact form available on Freedom Chairs Website; and they will follow up to better understand your situation and determine how they may be able to help.

At Freedom Chairs, they are passionate about giving wheelchairs a second home and helping people in the process. With your help, they can refurbish gently used wheelchairs and provide them to individuals in need. However, they do have some requirements for donations to ensure that the wheelchairs will be able to have a second home.

Aaron, a Freedom Chairs client

Freedom Chairs can accept custom power wheelchairs (often called group 3 chairs) that are less than 5 years old and in working order, although good batteries are appreciated, but not required. They also accept generic power wheelchairs (often called group 1 or 2) that are a bit older if they are in good condition. They accept scooters of most ages in good condition and nice manual wheelchairs. Please note that they cannot accept wheelchairs that are damaged or in poor condition, as it can often be very difficult to obtain replacement parts other than wheels, motor brushes, hardware, or batteries without them costing more than the value of the chair.


If Freedom Chairs are unable to accept your wheelchair, there are other options available to you. Some metal recycling centers will accept wheelchairs for recycling. You can also consider posting your wheelchair for free on online marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Some individuals in your community may have the space to store or repair chairs, or you might even find a local high school that will use the motors and frame for a robot platform!

We understand that parting with a wheelchair can be emotional, especially if it was used by a loved one. However, donating your chair to Freedom Chairs or exploring other options for donation or disposal can help make a significant difference in the life of someone in need or at a minimum, reduce the negative environmental impact of disposal if the chair is past its useful service life.

Building Ramps for Disabled Hoosiers: SAWs Featured on WISH TV’s Finding Faith

We are excited to share the news that SAWs (Servants at Work) was recently featured on WISH TV’s Finding Faith with Randy Ollis. This heartfelt segment sheds light on our mission of building ramps for disabled Hoosiers and showcases our organization’s incredible impact on the lives of individuals and families in need.

Link to the video segment:

The Importance of Accessible Ramps

For many disabled individuals, the absence of a ramp can be a significant barrier, limiting their independence and freedom. SAWs recognizes this need and steps up to provide solutions. Through the combined efforts of dedicated volunteers and generous donors, we construct ramps that empower individuals to move freely within their homes and communities.

Making a Difference Together

At SAWs, we firmly believe in the power of community and collaboration. We extend our gratitude to WISH TV and Finding Faith for shining a spotlight on our organization and helping us raise awareness about the vital work we do. We also want to express our appreciation to all the volunteers and donors who make our mission possible. Through their selflessness and support, we can transform lives, one ramp at a time.

building ramps SAWs Servants at Work nonprofit video

Join Us in Making an Impact

As you watch the TV spot, we encourage you to reflect on the importance of accessibility and inclusivity for all individuals. Consider joining our cause by volunteering your time, making a donation, or spreading the word about SAWs. Together, we can continue to build ramps, break down barriers, and empower disabled Hoosiers to lead independent and fulfilling lives.

SAWs’ appearance on WISH TV’s Finding Faith has provided a platform to showcase our organization’s commitment to serving disabled individuals in our community. We are grateful for the opportunity to share our message and inspire others to join us in making a positive impact. Let’s continue to build ramps, foster inclusivity, and create a more accessible world for all.

Building Bridges: Servants at Work’s Corporate Team Building Program

Through our program, corporate teams have the opportunity to come together, roll up their sleeves, and build ramps for individuals facing mobility challenges. This hands-on experience fosters teamwork and camaraderie as well as promotes corporate social responsibility and a sense of fulfillment among participants. Over the years, SAWs has partnered with several corporations to build ramps, making a tangible difference in the lives of those in need.

Forging Strong Connections: Enhancing Impact through Corporate Partnerships

At SAWs, we believe in the power of partnerships. By joining forces with corporations who share our vision of building a more inclusive society, we can maximize our impact and reach even more individuals in need of mobility solutions. Through our corporate team building program, we have successfully collaborated with notable organizations, such as:


OrthoIndy has been a long-standing partner of SAWs, demonstrating unwavering commitment to community service. Their dedicated teams have volunteered their time, talent, and treasures to construct ramps, providing freedom and accessibility to individuals facing mobility challenges.

Rehab Medical

Rehab Medical is another corporate citizen that has embraced our team-building program. With their enthusiastic participation, we have been able to transform the lives of numerous individuals by constructing ramps tailored to their specific needs. This team championed SAWs’ 3000th ramp build in August 2021.


Salesforce understands the value of creating an inclusive environment for all. Through their involvement in our team building program, they have not only strengthened their internal bonds but have also made a significant impact on the lives of those in their local community. Salesforce employees are encouraged to look for opportunities to serve within the community and these employees are wonderful corporate ambassadors with servants’ hearts.

Measurable Impact and Lasting Relationships:

The impact of our corporate team-building program extends far beyond the physical construction of ramps. Through these partnerships, participating corporations witness firsthand the transformation that takes place in the lives of individuals and families who gain independence and accessibility. The program fosters a sense of fulfillment and pride among employees, leading to increased morale, team cohesion, and a shared sense of purpose.

Moreover, these collaborations often lay the foundation for lasting relationships between SAWs and the corporate world. Many corporations continue to support our mission beyond their initial involvement in the team-building program, furthering our ability to serve individuals with mobility challenges.

Servants at Work’s corporate team-building program serves as a bridge between the corporate world and the community, fostering teamwork, corporate social responsibility, and transformative impact. Through partnerships with corporations like OrthoIndy, Rehab Medical, and Salesforce, we have built ramps that have changed lives and created a more inclusive society. As we continue to forge new collaborations, we invite more corporations to join us in our mission to build freedom and make a lasting difference in the lives of those in need. Together, we can build bridges and create a world where everyone has equal access and opportunities.

The Inspiring Story of SAWs: How This Nonprofit Became an Accessibility Leader in Indiana by Building Ramps

SAWs Ramp First ramp build in Indiana

Since 2003, SAWs has been building ramps for people with disabilities, making them one of the leading nonprofits in Indiana. Learn their inspiring story and how you can help make a difference.

By Casey Call

A Family on a Mission

Rik and Becky Hagarty embarked on their journey of local service in the early 2000s with great enthusiasm. Rik was heading a local outreach program responsible for painting and landscaping. Multiple volunteers were sent by this program to different downtown areas for these efforts. After completing his three-year tenure in this role, he began to explore other means to contribute to the community. David Berry, the Second Presbyterian Missions Minister, proposed contacting a church in Ft. Wayne, Indiana that was constructing handicap ramps as a solution. Rik visited Ft. Wayne in the spring of 2003 and returned home full of energy and enthusiasm for the things he had learned.

In a conversation with a Medicaid case worker, he became aware of the necessity of constructing ramps.  Along with the knowledge of the specifics of how ramps were being constructed, upon his return, he imparted that information to the other members of the church. After finding interest in funding a ramp, the Mission group began searching for a client. Rik states that this was the only time he had to seek out a recipient. Noble Centers of Indiana, an organization focused on wellness for people with disabilities, enabled the fledgling group to find a client. Second Presbyterian members showed their generosity by starting their first ramp the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2003. According to Rik, “We knew absolutely nothing about building a ramp. We just started cutting and assembling and it slowly came together.”

Rik, his brother-in-law, a friend, another church member, and his two daughters walked into a frosty backyard with a bundle of lumber.  At the end of the first day, even though there was still more to be done, the mother of their client was thanking them profusely for helping them avoid the removal of her child by FSSA for safety reasons. That turned out to be the motivation to come up with a plan to keep doing their work. It is quite remarkable that Becky and Rik just happened to start two amazing organizations through the Second Presbyterian Mission Teams at about the same time – thanks to the blessings and support the Mission Teams provided.

The Beginning of an Organization

In the spring of 2004, both Rik and the Mission Team at Second Presbyterian agreed that building handicap ramps for people with disabilities was a huge need in the community. They developed criteria for potential clients that were primarily focused on disability and income level. They then created a plan for the year that included how many they targeted to build, what the costs would be, where the volunteers would come from, and where they would find the funding. Fortunately, the Mission Team at Second Presbyterian provided most of the required elements. Second Presbyterian Church remains to this day the largest donor of all the church partners.

Rik had contacts at several agencies such as Noble Center as well as a few hospitals from his previous search, so finding clients for ramp builds that year was much easier. They ended up building four ramps that year, all of which were for very deserving people.

In 2005, word of the effort had started to spread. Rik was approached by St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, another large church on the north side of Indianapolis to form a partnership, and the name was changed to Servants At Work. St. Luke’s had a large volunteer pool, including very dedicated gentlemen like David Boyer and Jim Hamilton. Along with Al Erickson from Second, they are the longest-serving volunteers for SAWs. David manages SAWS client relations in Indianapolis.  Jim is a Project Manager and Warehouse Manager.  Al now manages the project management software that organizes the effort. David, Jim, and Al have all served on the Board of Directors and are great examples of long-time contributors who have been very influential in SAWs’ success.

Fundraising was a challenge in the early years even though Second Presbyterian was incredibly generous. St. Luke’s had a member on the board of directors at CICOA (Central Indiana Council on Aging), which resulted in the introduction of their organization. CICOA had both the potential clients and funding for ramps, becoming one of the early donor organizations. There were individual donors in the early going but no large donors or grants. This put Rik’s background in sales to the test of generating the funds needed. At this point, Rik was interested in turning a “hobby” into an organization. He also knew this could no longer be a one-man show. So, a Board of Directors was formed to help run the growing company.

Then requests started to come from other parts of the state and the Indianapolis volunteers were not very interested in driving long distances regularly. One day in 2008, there was a call from Greencastle, so Rik called the Greencastle Presbyterian Church, and the concept of an “affiliate” was born. John Anderson was the leader of this effort and is still very active to this day. Affiliates can be churches or civic organizations that accept responsibility to manage a certain area and provide all the resources for SAWs to be successful, while SAWs provides the infrastructure and knowledge to make it happen. SAWs Takes Hold

SAWs Takes Hold

The organization continued to evolve as a Mission Outreach program, with some milestones along the way. The first website was created by a volunteer in 2008. The concept of project managers as a specific role for each ramp took hold. The very important concept of having a pre-build facility to cut and efficiently assemble the frames spread to multiple locations. The ability to expand the program was successful. Since some Foundations and large Funds would donate to a faith base organization but not to a church, in 2011 Servants At Work. Inc. was formed and approved by the Federal Government for 501C3 nonprofit status.  Separate from Second Presbyterian Church proved to be significantly helpful in fundraising but Second continued to be a large financial supporter.

After SAWs Inc. was formed, they started to build a master plan for the organization following Rik’s vision to become a national organization. Charlie Russell, a corporate executive with a marketing background stepped in to help with both the professionalism of marketing content and the master plan. The organization also decided to create the role of Executive Director to lead it. Charlie served as Executive Director until a permanent Director could be hired in 2018.

SAWs Ramps today

The 20th anniversary will happen in 2023 as SAWs approaches its 4,000th ramp, a milestone to be celebrated by many. SAWs coverage includes about 68 of Indiana’s 92 counties, including most of the major metropolitan areas.

SAWs also builds Virginia and Arizona, with new groups forming in Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. In 2022, SAWs constructed 425 ramps in Indiana, demonstrating that their efforts to establish a high-volume capacity are yielding positive results. There are currently over 200 people on the waiting list to receive their ramps.  This further confirms that ramps are greatly needed in most communities. The search for funding, volunteers, and partners never ends. If you are interested in exploring how you could help, please visit the website at

SAWs Expanding Operations in Pulaski County

We are delighted to share that Servants at Work (SAWS) is expanding its operations to Pulaski County in February 2022. This partnership with BraunAbility and the Community Foundation of Pulaski County will enable us to provide additional support and assistance to families in Winamac and Pulaski County. By entering into this partnership, we are taking an exhilarating step towards our goal of granting people with ambulatory disabilities from low-income households access and mobility.

At a meeting in Winamac, SAWs’ staff joined forces with BraunAbility and the Community Foundation of Pulaski County to discuss plans for constructing buildings that would be accessible to Pulaski County’s residents. Volunteers prefabricate wooden ramps on site and BraunAbility provides the space for this purpose, with the ramps then being assembled at clients’ homes. At the BraunAbility facility, SAWs toured the premises and had the chance to speak with accessibility advocates. SAWs have committed to constructing numerous additional ramps provided by BraunAbility over the coming year for residents. The Winamac area is seeing an increase in access and enhanced lives for people living with disabilities, thanks to the collective efforts of SAWS, BraunAbility, and the Community Foundation of Pulaski County.

By working together, we will construct ramps in the area to ensure that everyone is able to access their residences securely and with ease. This project is made possible thanks to the generous support of BraunAbility, the Community Foundation of Pulaski County, and all of our donors. The Pulaski County Community Foundation has generously awarded SAWs a grant of $11,500 to build new, ADA-compliant custom ramps for 5 to 6 families. BraunAbility volunteers are helping SAWs to design and construct a ramp at each client’s residence. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to create a more inclusive community for people of all abilities, and we are eager to have a positive effect.

To donate online, apply for a ramp, or to find out more information, please visit