Ramp-a-thon changes life for the Cervantes family

by Allison Stalberg

Marisela and José Cervantes are the grandparents of eight-year-old Mareyli. Every day they had to carry her and her wheelchair outside separately when taking her to school or any other event outside their home.

“It was getting harder for us to carry my granddaughter from our house and taking her to school and bringing her back from school, especially with the stairs,” said José. “We had to be more careful, especially when she’s stretching out—especially when it was raining or snowing…and to not slip on the steps. It takes a lot of muscle, especially for my wife, it’s getting more difficult for her also because Mareyli grew so fast.”

The situation got to the point where Marisela had bruises on her arm from carrying their granddaughter. José attempted to build a ramp by their garage, but the project proved too difficult for one person. That’s when they discovered Community Housing Solutions, a nonprofit that helps low-income homeowners in North Carolina. On the Community Housing Solution’s 8 th annual ramp-a-thon, the Cervantes family was gifted with a ramp outside their front door.

The four-day ramp building service was done by volunteers with the Catholic Heart Work Camp and professionals from Community Housing Solutions. Many of the volunteers are on their summer vacation from high school.

The volunteers that worked on the Cervantes’s ramp were Michelle Starbuck, Larry Cook and Cam Cook from Michigan.

There was also Ross Matthews from Ohio and Dominique Miller from Georgia.

“My personal hope is that these kids will take this back to wherever they’re from and spread the word that this kind of thing can actually be done, and that’s big picture thinking,” said Amy Murphy, community engagement coordinator with Community Housing Solutions.

“The fact that it involves so many people, I think is huge. It’s a real partnership. The other part is it gives these kids an opportunity to grow their servant heart, they can see what an impact they have on families.”

A regular day for the volunteers began with being awoken by the banging of pans in the morning at the church that hosted them. The volunteers came to work about 9 a.m. and worked until 3:30 p.m. The rest of their time was spent with praise and worship at the church. They all slept on the floor and while not all were used to working in the Carolina humidity, they were happy to put their time into helping others.

Volunteer Larry Cook said, “This has been the biggest blessing for all of us.”

Murphy is proud of the effect ramp-athon has had.

“I think if I had one word to describe what I’ve seen this week, I think it would be ‘impact,'” she said. “It has had a huge impact on a lot of lives.”

The Cervantes family is just one of many stories.

“We have built a ramp this week for someone who has not been outside his home except by ambulance for two years,” said Murphy. “And then we built one for someone who is a paraplegic and his wife has been taking him up and down the stairs, and he is a grown man.”

The Cervantes family has been interviewed by various television stations and news papers in the North Carolina area. Murphy believes inherent goodness is what gives this story the attention it deserves.

“I think it’s because people have a big heart and they want to know how they can help other people. I think it gives them a way that they can be involved and they can see what is possible,” she said. “People want to see good things happen. There’s been a lot of bad news lately and people want to see how people can be one.”

For the volunteers, one of the most memorable parts of their labor was witnessing Mareyli go down the ramp in her chair.

Larry said, “Her smile is something to remember.” !