Spokane Machinists build wheelchair ramp for teen

SpokaneRamp3SPOKANE VALLEY — Members of Machinists Union Local Lodge 86 in Spokane have built their first wheelchair ramp, spreading a proud tradition started by Machinists Union volunteers in Seattle nearly 20 years ago.

“The ramp turned out beautiful,” said President Robley Evans, the president of Machinists Union Local Lodge 751-F, who was one of the veteran ramp-builders who traveled from Seattle to Spokane to advise the Local 86 volunteers. “We gave them a ton of advice, and they’re going to be able to build quite a few.”

On April 18, 15 IAM 751 volunteers – 13 from Spokane and two from Seattle – built the ramp at the home of the Kindsvogel family in Spokane Valley. Their teenaged son, Alex, has been confined to a wheelchair since he was 3.

The family had a wheelchair ramp in their home, but Alex had outgrown it, Liana Kindsvogel told KREM-TV in Spokane. “We couldn’t use it in the house because it was so steep.”

Because the ramp was so steep, Alex’s caregivers had to carry him into the house, then push his empty wheelchair up the ramp so he could use it inside, Evans said.

Kindsvogel had contacted Local 86 after seeing media reports of how Machinists Union members volunteer to build wheelchair ramps, said Steve Warren, who is the business representative for Machinists Union District Lodge 751 in Eastern Washington.

IAM 751 volunteers in Western Washington have built nearly 350 wheelchair ramps since the union formed its Machinists Volunteer Program in 1997, but this was the first time anyone had approached the union’s local lodge in Spokane to act about a ramp.

The Local 86 volunteers were ready to help, but “we’d never done ramps before,” Warren said. “We needed a subject matter expert, somebody who knew how to design and build a ramp from the ground up.”

Evans and IAM 751 Health & Benefits Rep Garth Luark – both long-time members of the MVP Committee – volunteered to go to Spokane to help train the Local 86 team.

SpokaneRampAThe Machinists ended up building a 26-foot ramp, with one 90-degree turn, in the Kindsvogels’ garage. They also moved shelves from one wall to another to make more room for the ramp.

When MVPs do wheelchair ramp projects, they do the design and construction for free, while the family receiving the ramp pays for materials.

In this case, that lowered the cost to the Kindsvogels from somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 to less than $300, the family said.

“It’s sometimes overwhelming how much medical equipment can cost,” Liana Kindsvogel told KREM-TV. “This has just been an amazing gift.”

The Local 86 Machinists – a mix of truck mechanics, machinists and aerospace workers from various Spokane-area shops – were quick learners, Evans said.

“They’re off and running,” he said. “We’re going to see some more ramp-building out of them.”

Warren said Local 86 officers have formed a standing committee to evaluate future wheelchair ramp requests, with a goal of doing at least one a year.

“Our guys are really excited to take on their next project,” he said.

For more information about IAM 751 wheelchair ramp projects, call the Seattle Union Hall at (206) 764-0335 or the Spokane Union Hall at (509) 534-9690.

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 33,000 working men and women at 52 employers across Washington and California. They are served by a network of local lodges that includes Local 86 in Spokane, Local Lodge 1123 in Wenatchee and Local Lodge 1951 in Richland.

To learn more about Machinists in Eastern Washington, “like” the IAM Eastern Washington Facebook page.

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