A motivated group of youth made a huge impact in our community this week as they left the comfort of their everyday routine and stepped out to serve those in need.  A Richmond Washington Youth Group traveled to Tillamook for the 12th year in a row to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. With 18 youth and 5 adults they accomplished a variety of tasks around the community such as: helping re-organize the ReStore, volunteering with Food Roots, working on the Miller Avenue Habitat House, assisting the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce with needed projects, cleaning up the yard of a habitat homeowner, and the highlight-helping with a Ramps & Rails project!

Ramps & Rails was established in October, 2016 when community paramedic Nick Watts shared his concern with Tillamook County Habitat that people returning home from the hospital were at risk of re-hospitalization because their home lacked basic safety features and they did not have the money to make improvements. Stacie Zuercher from Northwest Senior and Disability services stepped onto the scene to provide the needed motivation to form a community collaborative composed of representatives from local service and health agencies. Current committee members include: Habitat for Humanity, Northwest Senior and Disability Services-Community Services, Tillamook Adventist Medical Center-Community Paramedic Program, Community Health Improvement (CPCCO), GOBHI Older Adult Behavioral Health Initiative, OSU Extension, Oregon Food Bank and Tillamook Veteran’s Services.

Since October 2016, Ramps & Rails has provided home modification for 12 people who are either low-income seniors, veterans, and or people with disabilities to support health, and independence by improving in-home safety through the collaboration of local agencies and community resources.

The Ramps and Rails program has two functions:

  1. Identify funding, volunteers, donations and sources for needed projects in the community
  2. Matching consumers in need of service with materials and labor

The program relies heavily on the Habitat for Humanity volunteer labor pool, donated supplies and identification of funding sources. With help from the Washington Youth Group and ReStore Employee (and Habitat Homeowner) Victor Cervantes, Habitat was able to serve a family in need of a securing a ramp, installing grab bars, painting, and other minor home repairs. “This was an exciting project for the youth to work-on because they could see the immediate difference it was making for this family,” says Executive Director Cami Aufdermauer. “There were tears of joy and lots of hugs when the project was completed. In one day these youth were able to change someone’s life by making their home safe.” This project could not have been completed without the work of the Ramps & Rails committee and referrals from Northwest Senior and Disability Services. “This is how it’s supposed to work,” says Stacie Zuercher, Chair of the Ramps & Rails committee. “It has been a slow start getting this program up and running but we are steadily seeing results and each success story is another reason to keep pushing for more opportunities to grow.”

If you are interested in getting involved with a Ramps & Rails project, or know someone in need, contact Cami Aufdermauer at [email protected]. You can also donate financially online at tillamookhabitat.org to help up reach more families in need of safety modifications in their home.