Jim Martin (left), Roger Heimerson, Susan Martin, Brandon Bishop, Sherry McKichan, Jason Bishop and Dennis Cisper take a group picture following the completion of the ramp.

Two vice presidents of an Oklahoma construction company recently picked up their hammers again to volunteer their efforts to build a handicapped accessible ramp for a Forsyth woman.

Approximately six months ago, Mountain Country Homes of Hope Executive Director Susan Martin received an application request for a handicapped-accessible ramp, from Sherry McKichan of Forsyth, whose 92-year-old mother had just moved into her home. 

Martin said the application was approved through Mountain Country Homes of Hope ReBuilding Hope for Seniors Program, but due to a lack of available volunteers, the project remained at a standstill. The future of the project quickly changed when Martin found herself on a business trip to Oklahoma City and sitting at a table with OKC JE Dunn Construction Vice President and General Manager Jason Bishop and Vice President Dennis “Denny” Cisper.  

“I was just talking about Sherry and that I need to get this handicap ramp built,” said Martin. “Jason Bishop … looked at me and he said, ‘We’ll do it! Just count us in. We’ll come to Branson and build that ramp for you.’ After I finished hugging both he and Denny, I said ‘OK’ and they started making plans to come over.”

On Aug. 10, Cisper, Bishop and Bishop’s son Brandon arrived in Taney County. They, alongside MCHH Project Manager Roger Heimerson and MCHH Volunteer Jim Martin, built and completed the ramp project in one day. 

Before construction began, Martin explained the project also faced another challenge due to the necessary length of the ramp. 

“This one was about 25 feet long. So we needed to make sure that there was a space to build a 25 foot ramp, whether we needed to put two landings on it or whatever,” said Martin.” We had planned one way, and then when JE Dunn’s people got out there … they devised the quickest way to do it, the sturdiest way and the best, most efficient way for Sherry’s property, and also for Dolly to be able to get up and down the ramp. It worked really good.”

Martin added what it meant to have someone take an interest in their program, realize what it is that they are trying to accomplish in Taney County and then volunteer their time to make it happen, is something that is hard to express in words. 

“There was a lot of hugs and a lot of tears between Sherry and Dolly and a couple of our board members who came by to see the progress and other volunteers,” said Martin. “Just for them to take time away from their families to drive over here to build this ramp, it was a phenomenal feeling.”

The Rebuilding Hope for Senior’s Program serves seniors living in western Taney County, who are living on a fixed income and are in need of maintenance, small repairs or quality of life improvements made on their homes. Martin said, since the program’s inception in 2011, they have helped more than 300 seniors in some way or another.

“Grab bars are a big thing for us, but we’ve done things as small as going out and changing a light bulb or an air conditioner filter,” Martin said. “For widows whose husbands had always taken care of the maintenance of their homes, and they just didn’t do it, they didn’t know how to do it, it’s been so very, very rewarding.”

Through the Rebuilding Hope program, MCHH will cover the cost of a project up to $300. For projects more than $300, MCHH will foot the cost of the project, but the homeowner will be asked to pay back the remaining amount. 

“It’s for materials only. We don’t charge for any labor,” said Martin. “We do that, so when they pay us back, we can turn around and help the next person. Consequently, they understand that they received this help from us and they’re being able to pass it forward and help the next person that is in a like situation that needs a handicap ramp or a repair or some maintenance done to their home.”

Taney County locals Patti Sanders and Dolly Reder also volunteered their time on the project as members of the clean-up crew. Mary Hubbard, manager of the new Quiznos on East Missouri 76, donated lunch and snacks for the workers, Martin stated in a press release. 

Martin said, due to a surplus of current projects, they will not be accepting any new Rebuilding Hope applications until next spring. 

She said the Mountain Country Homes of Hope Warehouse in Hollister will be reopening its doors on Sept. 6 and accepting new donations of building materials and home goods that have been tenderly used and in good condition. The warehouse will also have new hours and be open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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