Santa letter spurs volunteers
Dave Ranek read the letter from a 9-year-old boy to Santa. The child’s first request: "My daddy is very sick and cannot walk very well. He could really use a ramp."
The youngster also wanted "something really nice" for his mother, explaining that was because she did so much for the family. Then the boy listed several gift wishes for himself.
Ranek and his wife learned in early December about the U.S. Post Office’s Santa Project, and the couple planned to buy gifts for this family. But their plans expanded when Ranek realized the United Methodist Men at his church, OKC-Quail Springs, could help meet a greater need.
Each year, letters to Santa sent by U.S. Mail get special handling by postal personnel. Coordinators share the requests with people willing to help out Santa. "Elves" are always welcome.
Ranek leads fundraising efforts for the Quail Springs UMMen. The group sells fair-trade coffee, candy, and more during the year. Ranek knew some funds were available, and that one of the members is a building contractor.
The two men found a ready-made ramp priced at $1,400. They shifted to Plan B.
Ranek purchased used lumber at Habitat for Humanity’s Renovation Station. The contractor made a list of other needed supplies, and the UMMen paid for them. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires a ramp length of 1 foot per inch of step heighth into a house. The ramp at the boy’s house had to be 23 feet long.
On Dec. 18, the ramp was built in about seven hours. The men made it portable, at the landlord’s request. The ramp, 36 inches wide, can accommodate a power wheelchair and includes required handrails. With planks 2 inches thick, "you could drive a car on it!" exclaimed Ranek. Their total cost was less than $300.
The U.S.P.O. Santa Project operates anonymously. But due to the nature of this gift, Ranek met the family. The parents, both about age 60, adopted the boy when he was 7.
"The boy, a happy little guy, really wanted to help on the ramp," Ranek said. "He was dissuaded by his mother. But we left scrap lumber for him to nail and build."