Inspiring Okeechobee: Good Samaritans make ramps for veterans

OKEECHOBEE — A recent post on Facebook inspired this week’s story. Local business owner, Wade Hunt posted that he and his crew had just finished building a ramp for a veteran. After some investigation, it turned out this group has been building wheelchair accessible ramps for veterans completely free of charge for the last year. They aren’t just building a little plywood ramp either, they are building high-quality, beautiful ramps anyone would be thrilled to own, and they donate not just their time but also the material it takes to produce one each month. When I read this, I had to track these people down, because if that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is, and I wanted the whole town to read about them.

Veteran Frank Partridge and his granddaughter are enjoying the new ramp built by the Ramps for Veterans team: Paul Higginbotham, Wade Hunt and Justin King. Not pictured Wade Watkins, Tara Hunt and Chase Ford. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News.

Wade has lived in Okeechobee for 46 years. Before starting his own business, Painting and Pressure Cleaning by Big Lake, he worked for his stepfather, who Wade explained was a veteran. As a matter of fact, Wade’s stepfather is the reason for Ramps for Veterans. Wade said when he was young, his stepdad needed a ramp, but he had no way to get one. Wade was too young, and didn’t know how to build them yet, and he said he just didn’t want any other vets to go through what his stepfather went through. He figured if he had the ability to help then he should help.

Until the most recent ramp, Wade paid for all the materials out of his own pocket, but he said this time money was a little tight, so he put it on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to help and was excited to see others were happy to jump in and help too. That’s when he decided to set up a Facebook page for future ramps so they can coordinate volunteers and donations and even veterans who need ramps. The name is simple so it is easy for people to find, he said. “Just look for Ramps for Veterans.”

Wade has a team who helps with most of the ramps. His son, Wade Watkins, his daughter Tara Hunt, Justin King, Paul Higginbotham and Chase Ford are all very loyal to the cause.

Justin says he does it because someone needs to do it, and Wade Watkins does it as a way to give back to the community. Both Tara and Chase are in high school and usually are only available to help on the weekends, but Wade says he couldn’t do it without them.

The group has a heart for the hurting, and doesn’t just build ramps. They also organized a food drive for North Carolina hurricane victims, rented a 26-foot Budget truck and drove it up there to them. They also took food and tarps to Texas.

According to Sarah Carter, Okeechobee County Veteran Services Officer, there are approximately 2,800 veterans living in Okeechobee County. There is a verse in the Bible in Luke 10:2 about the harvest being plentiful but the workers being few, which fits well in this situation. There are many veterans in Okeechobee but few people willing to meet their needs. Wade and his crew are the willing.

If you would like to join in the effort either physically or financially, you can visit the Facebook page or call 863-634-8800.

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