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SAI offers wheelchair ramps

Volunteers cut boards to be used for the construction of a wheelchair ramp at a private residence on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.

HUNTSVILLE — As it turns out, Scott Appalachian Industries is about more than providing physical care for the disabled and the elderly.

The Huntsville-based company has restarted a volunteer-based effort that provides wheelchair ramps — free of charge — at homes in the local community where they are needed.

SAI announced Monday that it has entered a cooperative agreement with United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee to utilize grant funding from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency to provide wheelchair ramps for individuals with mobility disabilities.

“The main focus of SAI’s mission is to make lives better,” said SAI Home-Based Coordinator Hannah Blizzard. “We want to help our community members enjoy a greater quality of life by remaining in their homes when possible.”

That is what the wheelchair ramp program is about. The company said it constructed its first ramp as part of the recently restarted program on Feb. 18, when eight people — Jimmy Faulk, Dewayne Singletary, Jason Gilreath, Coty Duncan, Tyler Blizzard, Hannah Blizzard, Kristie Smith and Larry West — contributed 60 hours of volunteer service to help build a wheelchair ramp.

“This ramp is a good example of what can be accomplished when our community pulls together to support one another in a creative, caring and collaborative way,” Blizzard said.

Through its partnership with United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee, SAI has seven individuals on a waiting list who need help. However, it can only build ramps when volunteers are available to assist with construction.

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“Volunteering is a fun time of fellowship and a great way to bond with our community,” Blizzard said. “There’s a lot of need, and one person can’t help everybody. But you can help one. You can do something. If you can’t build, you can carry materials and tools, provide lunch, or help with cleanup. One person volunteering their time once a week or once a month, multiplied by lots of people, that makes a big difference. A few doing a little does a lot.”

Interested volunteers, or someone with a need, can call SAI at 663-9300.

SAI’s Kaprecia Babb said the wheelchair ramp program is just one example of ways SAI is involved in the local community.

“Most only see the high-top vans and people in wheelchairs, (but) that’s not all we are. We’re much more than that,” Babb said Thursday.

Speaking to the Scott County Chamber of Commerce at its monthly luncheon, Babb highlighted several areas where the company is currently involved, including with providing meals through a grant that is available because more than 70 percent of students in Scott County are eligible for free or reduced lunches at school.

Babb said SAI currently provides meals at the Boys & Girls Club of the Cumberland Plateau, and expands its meals program during the summer months.

“If somebody will just designate a site, any child under 18 can go there and get a meal for free,” Babb said.

SAI has been providing meals for the past decade.

Babb said SAI’s combined efforts are a boost to the local economy.

“Any service we provide, we try to make sure the money is spent here,” she said. “Just having SAI here helps the economy. We use every doctor, every dentist and every nutritionalist.”

The company, which recently completed a major expansion project that added multi-story office space, also provides office space for the newly-formed Scott County Family Justice Center, which is working on a site and funding for a permanent location.

Babb said SAI currently employs 150 people, “and could double that” if the work force was available.

“It’s not that we don’t have jobs; it’s that we can’t find people qualified or able,” Babb said.

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