Volume 5, Issue 2
February 2023
The Year In Review
Another Great One for TRP!
The Texas Ramp Project continues to bounce back from the pandemic, which wreaked havoc on nonprofits across the nation. In 2022, TRP volunteers built 1,896 ramps, up 11% from 2021. The Dallas region led in builds, at 306, followed by San Antonio Central at 169, East Texas Tyler 121, Waco South 108, Austin Central 99, Bryan/College Station and Amarillo 78, San Antonio Northeast 64, and San Angelo 59.
Revenues also remained strong in 2022. TRP received $1,644,798 in grants, donations and fee-for-service payments. This was down a bit from $1,878,533 in 2021 but still up a whopping 63% from just over $1 million in 2020, when donations dropped precipitously.
TRP’s peak construction year came in pre-pandemic 2019, when ramp count totaled 2,113. The 2022 total provides momentum for renewed growth. In most regions, volunteers have been returning or new volunteers have been recruited. Unfortunately, the price of lumber continues to impact construction. The average ramp last year ran about $900, up substantially from just $550 five years ago. Our funding does not go as far as it used to.
The 2022 count brought total ramps to 23,900 since 1985, when the organization was created as the Dallas Ramp Project. You might recall that TRP hit the 20,000 milestone at the end of 2020, when we celebrated construction of 100 miles of ramps. We are now at 121 miles of ramps, and every new ramp you build adds to that total.
TRP volunteers are generous with their time. Last year you, and a few thousand others, contributed over 51,000 hours of your time. The value of these hours is over $1.4 million. Since 2006 total donated hours exceeds 606,000! These numbers can impress our potential donors—foundations, other organizations and individuals—as to TRP volunteers’ commitment to assisting elderly and disabled Texans.
In addition to healthy ramp totals and revenue, TRP marked other accomplishments over the past year. One important one is our pursuit of corporate relationships. New corporate partners last year included Installed Building Products, Keeley Cares, Santander Consumer USA, Ash Grove Cement Company and Vistra. Toyota, WellMed, State Farm, H-E-B, Numotion, and a large number of electric cooperatives remain strong allies.
We also have worked to restore agreements with local Area Agencies on Aging, which fell off during the pandemic. We now have contracts with 16 AAAs, with others pending. If you have received referrals from your AAA and have a contract, be sure to address those referrals quickly. That way we will be able to maintain those agreements in coming years.
Our relationship with Habitat for Humanity grew last year with the addition of Fayette County and Fort Hood affiliates. In 2022, TRP received nearly $48,000 in fee-for-service payments from Habitat. We are working to connect other regions with their local Habitat affiliate to build on these initial connections.
And in case you haven’t noticed, TRP’s social media platforms are going strong. Last year TRP reached over 5,300 individuals online, telling and showing the TRP story in words and photos. Thank you to those who post their local successes online. And thanks to all region coordinators, surveyors, warehouse managers, volunteer builders and many, many others for making that success possible.

Welcome to the TRP Board:
Keith Henderson 

When Keith Henderson became a TRP board member in January 2023, he had already hit the ground running. He spent much of last fall contacting most of Texas’ 28 Area Agencies on Aging across the state and secured 16 contracts, with others pending. Next he negotiated renewals for TRP’s liability and other insurance.

Most recently he has tackled management of TRP’s sometimes undependable email system and is developing a shared document platform to house TRP’s myriad computer files. Phew!

Keith is a long-time friend of board member Mark Hinzman, who, knowing Keith was retired and volunteering with other organizations, suggested he look into TRP. “The opportunity to contribute to an organization that provides a much-needed service was most compelling,” Keith says.

Keith spent more than 35 years in the telecommunications industry, mainly in customer contact and relationships, including managing call centers and installation and repair operations. After retiring as senior vice president at Excel Telecommunications, he spent four years with Paul Quinn College in southern Dallas as a business and operations advisor. 

After working with the current board and seeing first-hand their commitment and passion for the mission, he decided to accept the nomination to the board. “Being part of a team of leaders and volunteers with an organization that focuses on providing a life-changing service is very exciting,” Keith says.

“It is also a unique mission. The volunteers get to witness almost immediately the joy and appreciation the clients experience the first time they use the ramp and enjoy the freedom they deserve,” he adds. “Many service organizations do not provide this type of direct feedback from their clients.”

Keith was born in Dallas and spent most of his life in the North Texas area. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Dallas. He and his wife of 39 years, Donna, enjoy travel, especially to Mexican and Caribbean beaches, Santa Fe, N.M., and the Colorado mountains. Keith is also active with Call A Ride in Southlake, providing needed transportation for older adults and others with disabilities.
TI Volunteer of the Year
Gary Stopani, coordinator for the Dallas region, has been honored by the Texas Instruments Alumni Association as their 2022 volunteer of the year. Gary has been building ramps with the Dallas and Texas Ramp Projects since 2004 and stepped into the role of Dallas area coordinator in 2014. His wife Linda has been assisting ever since. Last year the Dallas region built 306 ramps under Gary’s leadership. The award comes with a $10,000 check from the Texas Instruments Foundation.
Gary retired in 2008 after nearly 25 years with Texas Instruments. Over the years, he and Linda have taken advantage of many TIAA opportunities, including travel, educational seminars and community service. He served as the TIAA president in 2016–18. He worked a wide variety of service projects in conjunction with the Senior Source and other nonprofits. In 2021 Gary led a team of TIAA volunteers to construct adaptive equipment for Special Olympics. And each year Gary leads a wheelchair ramp build with TIAA volunteers. He has volunteered hundreds of hours with TIAA.

Since 2013 Gary has led over 1,250 ramp builds with the Texas Ramp Project in the Dallas area and has volunteered over 7,000 hours. He is a TRP board member and submits grant requests to foundations. He has secured over $700,000 in grants in the last eight years. Last year he and Linda received the first Texas Ramp Project Volunteers of the Year award.

And that’s not all. Each year Gary helps sort books for the Garland Library Friends’ annual used book sale, which Linda heads up. He also serves his church, King of Glory Lutheran, in several capacities, including helping plan Impact Dallas!, the church’s annual volunteer day.
Vistra: An Ideal Partner  
Toward the end of 2021, Gary Stopani received a call from Josh Whitaker of Vistra, an integrated retail electricity and power generation company based in Irving. Josh was looking for a nonprofit that helps the disabled community and would involve his company’s Vistrability and Vistra Veteran’s Voice employee resource groups.

Josh, a wheelchair user himself, said he would like to set up dates to build in the Dallas area. Vistra would provide both volunteers and funding for ramps—a win-win for Texas Ramp Project and Vistra.

Now, a year later, Vistra has donated over $12,000, and Vistra volunteers completed 11 ramps comprising 236 feet on three build dates. Vistra has already set five more build dates in 2023. In the future, Vistra would like to help build in other parts of Texas and other states where they have a presence. TRP looks forward to continuing this partnership and seeing it spread to other regions. 
Valued Roles for Sustaining a Region:
Regional Coordinators

By Roy Harrington
Can you name the coordinators above and those below?
The Region Coordinator is responsible for making sure that everything from receiving referrals to reporting completed ramps gets done. Depending on the size of the region and the coordinator’s personality, this role can range from very “hands on” to more managerial, with other volunteers covering the bulk of the tasks.

With the wide variety of responsibilities, the Region Coordinator role is a good fit for individuals who don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over in their volunteer time. In any given week, or even within a very busy day, a region coordinator may be reviewing referrals, communicating with team leaders, calling or emailing volunteers, coordinating or actually doing ramp surveys, ordering and/or picking up materials, leading a ramp build, reporting completed ramps in the database, meeting with funding sources or even doing media interviews.

The Region Coordinator can delegate most tasks to others and function as a manager, be very “hands on,” or anything in between. Very often, the level of involvement will change over time as the region grows or as volunteers come and go in the organization.

Even if not directly involved in many activities, the coordinator still has to
has a very good idea of what is going on in the region and make sure that the volunteers coordinating these critical functions are supported and have everything they need: 
  • Referral management
  • Volunteer management
  • Build team leadership
  • Surveying
  • Materials management
  • Ramp completion reporting
  • Fundraising
  • Publicity

The last two items are critical indirect functions that have to be done to maintain an ongoing supply of volunteers, referrals and funds. All are necessary for the ultimate objective of building a ramp for every Texas resident who needs one but cannot afford it.

Every couple years, the regional coordinators and/or region representatives have the opportunity to attend a statewide conference where they can share experiences and ideas for how to support and grow the work of the Texas Ramp Project. This is a critical role in every region. If you have an interest, please contact John Laine or any of the board members.
Building Basics
by Roy Harrington
While included as bullet list items in previous newsletters, this article will more completely cover the additional requirements for “tall” ramps and things to look for when doing build-day inspections.

“Tall” Ramp Requirements

A “tall” ramp is when the top surface of the decking is 30 inches or more above the ground. This situation requires additional structural support as well as child safety balusters. Note that while this is normally the top end of the ramp, it can also extend several modules down and often with U-turn ramps when the ground is falling away from the home, as shown below. 
At a minimum, taller legs should be connected by a board laid flat across the blocks, but angled bracing is better, particularly on 4x4 or 5x5 modules installed at the door. 

The spacing requirement for the child safety balusters is a maximum of 4 inches. Using a 2x4 scrap around 20 inches long is an easy way to quickly space each baluster for installation. Note that pre-drilling is often needed to avoid splitting the baluster if using 2x2 lumber. If a table saw is available, it can be less expensive to rip 2x4 lumber in half.
Build Inspection

As a ramp is being built, there are many checks that need to be done along the way. In most cases, little problems are easier to fix early in the build. They get harder as more components are added, so it is best to be on constant lookout for issues.

An easily found concern are screws that completely missed the mark or maybe were driven in too far, causing them to stick out where they can catch on fingers or clothing. 
Another potential issue is screws that are in a line with the grain that will likely lead to splitting the board.
Wide or uneven joints, particularly on handrails, need to be minimized. Inevitably, they will happen, so it is important to catch them as early as possible to allow for correction. They can often be fixed by using a planer, rasp or sander. In the case at the right, one of the handrail supports was installed too high. So once that was corrected, the gap was fixed when the handrail was reinstalled.
It is also important to make sure that all needed screws are in place, such as down the center line of the modules to hold down the center of the plywood.
It is critical that we provide safe, durable ramps to our clients. This requires the surveyors and team leaders to recognize the need for additional structure and child safety balusters on some ramps. In addition, all ramps are improved when the team leader and all build team members watch for and correct any potential weak spots, handrail splinters, or screws that have missed their mark during installation.
Do you have other tips or suggestions to share?
There are a lot of very good ideas developed by ramp builders across the state. Please send any questions, comments or potential ramp construction topics to to help others build ramps better, stronger and faster.

Coming in March - the updated Building Basics Handbook
The updated Building Basics handbook will be available for your use in your regions. It can be a handy guide as you train new teams as well as refreshing seasoned teams with time tested tips and tools. We will continue to add to this handbook as you send in your ideas and techniques.
Recent Grants and Donations
The San Antonio Central region has received a $20,000 donation from a volunteer, with an invitation for other volunteers to provide matching funds during December and January. We are pleased to report that San Antonio volunteers and others met the challenge. This gives the San Antonio Central region a good start for 2023. San Antonio also managed to raise over $50,000 last fall to fill a shortfall in funding, allowing an additional 60 ramps to be constructed.
Other receipts in January were as follows:

  • $40,000 for statewide from Harry E. and Eda L. Montandon Charitable Trust.
  • $25,000 for statewide from Carl C. & Mario Jo Anderson Charitable Foundation.
  • $10,000 for Texarkana North from Martha, David and Bagby Lennox Foundation.
  • $9,221 for Dallas and statewide from King of Glory Lutheran Church.
  • $3,593 for Waco South from Waco Habitat for Humanity.
  • $2,000 for Waco North from HILCO Electric Trust.
  • $2,000 for Dallas from Burns & McDonnell Foundation.
  • $1,875 for Dallas from Texas Instruments Foundation.
  • $1,600 for Waco South from Faith Academy of Freestone.
  • $1,550 for Temple/Belton from Immanuel Lutheran Ministries.
  • $1,250 for San Antonio Northeast from St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Braunfels.
  • $1,087 for East Texas Jacksonville from First United Methodist Church.
  • $1,000 for Austin South from First Presbyterian Church, San Marcos.
  • $700 for Austin West from Hill Country Fellowship.
  • $500 for East Texas Marshall from New Destinations.
  • $378 for Austin West from The Church at Horseshoe Bay.
  • $335 for San Antonio Central from Abiding Presence Lutheran Church.
TRP Nameplates Running Low?
Hopefully your region is starting to run low on your supply of nameplates. To request more: email Sandy Knutson at Let her know how many you would like.
Link Up with TRP on LinkedIn
By Madison Lopez, Social Media Editor
Did you know that the Texas Ramp Project is on LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a social media network focused on professional networking. It offers professionals across the globe a chance to connect with one another and share their professional experiences. It may sound funny that TRP engages on this platform, but LinkedIn offers a perfect place for us to connect with organizations, companies and individuals alike.
LinkedIn is buzzing with organizations, big and small, that are proud of their work with the Texas Ramp Project. Employees who volunteer with their companies to build ramps often post messages of excitement and gratitude about volunteering with us. Employees from JP Morgan Chase & Co., Deloitte, UPS, NewRocket and more posted their experiences on LinkedIn this past month.
Work and service can intersect when organizations uphold a commitment to bettering their communities. We are proud to partner with so many organizations across Texas that get their employees excited about building ramps. Give us a follow on LinkedIn and join the conversation. In the meantime, check out these recent pictures that volunteers posted on LinkedIn.
Remember, you can use the hashtags #TexasRampProject or #TRP to share with our community. Tag us in your photos, and follow us here:
Volunteer Spotlight
Butch Meier
Bryan/College Station Region

Butch Meier is a home boy in the best sense of the word. He was born and raised in Brenham and has lived there all his life. His family of wife Kathy, four sons, and four grandchildren all live in Washington County. It was Butch’s pastor, Phil Fenton of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Brenham, who got Butch into the ramp-building world.

Butch graduated from Brenham High School in 1973 and went to work for a local tile company. In 1990, he took a job with Blue Bell Creameries and is still there, doing his part to keep bringing the iconic dessert to his fellow Texans.

It was many years ago—Butch can’t remember exactly when—that Pastor Phil invited him to come and build ramps. When Pastor Phil retired a few years ago, Butch stepped up as team leader for Washington County. In the past two years his teams have built 34 ramps total.

A beautiful feature of the Washington County team is that it is a family affair. Butch’s oldest son, Michael, who has Down Syndrome, assists with every ramp. Sons Travis and Matthew have helped, along with granddaughters Lindsey and Rose. In fact, probably every member of the family, including the daughters-in-law, have joined in at some point.

What Butch loves about the Texas Ramp Project is providing ramps for people who either felt unsafe or had a hard time getting out of their house—or couldn’t get out at all. He remembers one client in particular, a young boy named Blake. He had spina bifida and had to be carried down the steps. “After we built the ramp, he came down with his wheelchair, and the look on his face to do so without help was priceless,” Butch says. “Almost all of us could not wait to build again.”

Although Butch enjoys planning and overseeing the ramp builds (“and not running out of material, and no one getting hurt”), he’s mainly a family man. In addition to church, he’s in a pool league with his brother and three of his sons, including Michael.

Butch has nothing but praise for his volunteers. He especially calls out Pastor Phil, who after a few years’ absence is back at the sites again, and Darrell Plagens, who picks up materials a few days before every build. “I couldn’t do it without them.”
Calculating Volunteer Hours
Reprinted from the April 2019 TRP Newsletter.

Although our average ramp might meet the approximation of one hour per foot, each ramp build has its variations.

For instance, if we have to tear down an old ramp or a porch, trim a tree, clear out trash or brush, it will add hours on the site and increase total man-hours worked.
The number of hours volunteers
donate to the Texas Ramp Project is a vital statistic. It helps us convince foundations and other donors that our work is valuable, and it helps us determine if we are building efficiently.

We have found over the years that the total number of volunteer hours comes out to be roughly one hour per foot of ramp.

Correctly calculating volunteer hours, however, is part science, part art. The simplest formula is to multiply the number of volunteers by the number of hours it takes to build the ramp. If you have six volunteers and it takes four hours to build your ramp, the total number of volunteer hours, or man-hours, would be 24. The hours typically start when the volunteers reach the site and end when the obligatory group photo is snapped.
Conversely, if there are far too many volunteers at a site, it may artificially inflate the number of hours because only a few workers will probably be fully engaged. It would then be reasonable to reduce total hours closer to the one-hour-per-foot guideline, based on the team leader’s judgment.

Travel time to and from the build site is not included. Nor is time spent to survey the property or prebuild modules away from the site by other volunteers, as is sometimes the case. This time is accounted for by our database system, which automatically adds 15% to the total time when the hours are entered.

Once you’ve figured out the total number of volunteer hours, simply enter that number into the database for “Hours to Completion.”

East Texas Emory Region

Jason W., 47, of Mineola uses a wheelchair and will soon transition to a power chair. He had four steps at his front door that he could not navigate using his chair. So a social worker from WellMed made a referral, and a team of seven volunteers from the Broad Street Church of Christ, led by Michael Noell, responded.

The ramp they built was their 184th, bringing it to just over a mile of ramps since the team was formed. The team donated 23 hours of labor to provide Mr. W.'s 34-foot ramp. Not only is this ramp sporting a TRP nameplate, it also bears a commemorative plaque highlighting the team’s 184th build.
In recognition of Broad Street Church of Christ's mile of ramps built, team member Delton Gibson penned the following:

 Do unto others – The Golden Rule
That we all learned back in Sunday school.
The sound of God’s army goes, “Tramp, tramp, tramp.”
Today he has us building a ramp.
We saw up the lumber and screw in the screws,
With Texas Ramp Project you never can lose.
The sound of God’s army goes, “Tramp, tramp, tramp.”
Today he has us building a ramp.
We do all our work for a hug and a smile.
We love it so much we’re up to a mile.
The sound of God’s army goes, “Tramp, tramp, tramp.”
Today he has us building a ramp.
TRP Nameplate shares the spotlight with the 184th. team build sign. Congratulations
DO: Please Pass the Newsletter On
We hope you enjoy having the newsletter sent to you directly, as it is filled with useful information, building hints and tips, data collection updates and processes, client stories, special announcements and recognitions.

The newsletter only does its job when it is dispersed and shared with all who might be interested. We encourage you to liberally pass it on to others in your region.

Also, do send email addresses of people in your region who should be receiving it, along with their name and TRP region, to Sandy Knutson at

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