VFW & American Legion members build free wheelchair ramp

As you age, a simple task like walking up your steps can become quite the obstacle. For our aging veterans, the VFW and American Legion are helping out by building ramps.

“We started doing it about two years ago when a member of our honor guard passed away,” Bob Johnson, member of American Legion post 284 and VFW 9820 said. “Just prior to his death his wife asked us to build him a ramp so he could come home from the hospital to die. So we did that.

Johnson started a foundation in honor of their fallen friend Bill Piper called “The Bill Piper Foundation” and since its inception; they’ve built six ramps for veterans in need. But they began working on number seven on Wednesday.

“The need is there and we know it’s there,” Johnson said. “Bear is a fine example of that. He was pretty healthy a few months ago and now his legs and feet have deteriorated so he knows he is going to need a ramp.”

Richard “Bear” Klosowski is the latest veteran to receive a ramp. He has trouble walking without the assistance of a cane but with the ramp, it makes walking into his home an easier task.

“It’s going to make things a lot easier,” Klosowski said. “I belong to both organizations so this is a very good time for us to bond and have a lot of camaraderie.”

However, the cost of the ramp could be too much if it weren’t for the VFW and American Legion. If Klosowski were to get this ramp done professionally, it could cost him over $1,500. But thanks to his friends at the VFW and American Legion, it’s completely free.

“We have received a lot of donations to make this all possible,” Johnson said. “The St. Joseph County FOP and First Source Bank have both given us donations. Plus, K-Wood Products in South Bend offer us lumber at a discount which makes it a lot easier.”

Johnson says their cost for supplies can range anywhere from $300-$700 and they don’t have to pay for labor since it’s all volunteer work from both organizations.

“We don’t get paid for this,” Terry Huff, Associate Member of the VFW and American Legion said. “Except when that young man over there [Klosowski] smiles at us and says thank you.”

They weren’t able to finish the ramp in one day, but it was complete enough for Klosowski to take it for a test run all the way to the top.

Koslowski said, “This feels great.”

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