March 2022 Newsletter
Volume 4, Issue 3
Statewide Conference Rallies the Troops
Over 100 key volunteers from all over the state gathered in Austin February 18-19 to learn, share and celebrate the Texas Ramp Project and its mission to provide ramps for those in need. Attendees gave the conference high marks, citing the quality of content, peer-to-peer information exchange, high level of enthusiasm, and opportunity to meet both board members and volunteers from other regions.

The conference kicked off on Friday with a group dinner and three speakers from different aspects of TRP’s scope of action. Alice Jewell, chief executive officer of the McKenna Foundation, represented funding sources. Brittany Pratt, vice president of social responsibility at WellMed Medical Management, spoke to the health care provider as a referral source as well as a funding source. Lisa and Will Schmitt represented volunteers, in this case the Young Men’s Service League of Austin, which pairs teenage boys and their moms for service projects.
A highlight of the conference was, believe it or not, a ramp. Attendees gathered around a 16-foot demo ramp, built ahead of time by Roy Harrington and Randy Kerkman. The ramp followed ADA guidelines but featured two different handrails—a regular one and a special one built to specific city of Austin regulations. The demo ramp attracted a crowd at every break and produced rousing discussion and sharing of “how we do it in our region.” As one volunteer put it, “I like having options but still have a safe ramp.” 
Message from John Laine, TRP's Executive Director
Dear Friends,

Thank you all so much for our very successful meeting in Austin. It’s always great to see everyone and learn from new successes that you report. I really think that the biggest benefit is just having you chat with each other informally and listen to each other’s stories and experiences.

The project grows because of your enormous dedication and servant’s hearts as you solve our clients’ problems one by one and day by day.
This week I had the opportunity to build for a Korean War veteran who immediately came down his new ramp to thank the builders personally. I love it when the opportunity arises to bring both parties together. It certainly helps to get that positive feedback quickly.
We have noticed a slowdown in ramp completion reports coming in to us. That could mean one of two things: Either we are building fewer ramps than usual, or we are not reporting our builds.
Whichever it may be, I would encourage you to report promptly and to build to the best of your abilities timewise and to encourage volunteers to come out even if the temps are down a bit. One way to combat the latter is to start an hour later.
With the warming weather, I am confident that we will soon forget the chilly days of the past few months and cringe at the upcoming days of summer. So let’s enjoy our mild spring weather while it lasts. Thank you all for what you are doing to help the elderly and disabled residents of Texas. God bless each and every one of you.

Tips for Capturing Great Pictures
By Madison Lopez, Social Media Editor
Spring is just around the corner! And that means sunshine and bright colors, the best pairing for the best photos. Getting pictures with good sunlight and bright colors is one way to make your social media pictures stand out. Here are a few tips:
  1. Make sure the sun is shining on the faces of those in the picture, as opposed to behind them.
  2. Try different angles to minimize shadows on the faces of those in the picture.
  3. Aim to have colorful (but not distracting) backgrounds. Do this by photographing LESS messy yards and materials in the background and MORE blue skies, flowers, and blue TRP shirts in the background.

Remember, if you want your photos highlighted on social media, share them with us easily by tagging us and by using the designated TRP hashtags, #TRP or #TexasRampProject. Your bright and fun photos are eye-catching and help us tell our story.
Check out this month's featured post from Jody Harris on Facebook, highlighting the Sonora and San Angelo Texas Ramp Project.

This post and others that have been posted in Facebook are great examples of using bright colors and simple backgrounds in the photos.
Jody included an insightful message about how others can get involved. .

Click on picture to open.
Remember, you can use the hashtags #TexasRampProject or #TRP to share with our community. Tag us in your photos, and follow us here:

Questions on Referrals
Several questions regarding referrals cropped up at the statewide conference.

Here are just a few.
What do I do if I receive a referral that is not in my county? Sometimes a referral will have the physical address in one county and a mailing address in another county. The proper county is always the one where the home is located. If you receive a referral that is not going to be built in your county, notify Gary Gatzlaff at and he will reassign the referral to the right county.
What if the referral is for a home that is clearly not low income? It is absolutely OK to refuse to build that ramp. TRP ramps are for low-income people only. Feel free to explain that their ramp would run about X number of feet and cost X dollars to build. If the person offers to pay for materials, then you can decide if you have builders available to accommodate that homeowner and then invoice them.
What if the referral is from a friend or relative of the client or a source that does not evaluate people’s income status? TRP builds only ramps that have been referred by a medical provider or social worker who
can qualify the client as a low-income person. If you see a referral that does not adhere to this policy, contact the caregiver and ask them to get a referral from an agency.

What if the client already has a good ramp at one door and asks for a second ramp? If the person can exit his home safely on an existing ramp, we do not provide a second ramp. There is always another client waiting for their own ramp.
Do we ever ask a client up front to pay for the ramp? Absolutely not. Our mission is to build free ramps for low-income older adults and others with disabilities. The people we serve do not have money to pay for a ramp. However, after the ramp is built, it is not inappropriate to suggest that the client or their family might want to make a donation that will help the next person receive a ramp. (See next article for a template.)
According to John Laine, TRP’s three most important protections are:
  • We do not solicit our clients; they solicit the TRP through an agency.
  • We do not charge for our ramps.
  • We do not say that we are professional carpenters.
Volunteers of the Year
Gary and Linda Stopani
Coordinator, Dallas Region
The Texas Ramp Project awarded its first-ever Volunteer of the Year Award at the statewide conference in Austin. Make that plural: Volunteers of the Year. And the award goes to Gary and Linda Stopani, an amazing couple who pour their hearts into the Texas Ramp Project.

Gary started building with the Dallas Ramp Project in 2004. He became even more involved after joining King of Glory Lutheran Church, a founding supporter of TRP. Linda entered the project in 2013, when TRP needed help transferring years of data into the new Salesforce database. Ever since, she has monitored database entry for Dallas’s many ramps as well as accompany Gary on surveys and builds.

Gary stepped into the role of Dallas area coordinator in 2014. Every year since then, and even during the last two COVID years, the Dallas region has built more than 300 ramps. The region operates seamlessly because Gary and Linda work closely together to make it all work. Gary has also served on the TRP board of directors since 2013.
In 2021, the Dallas region, which includes Dallas and Collin counties, provided 311 ramps and plan to increase that to 325 ramps this year.

Click on the text link for more about Gary and Linda's story.

Hilti Tools Available
Hilti tools are now available at no cost and can be shipped directly to your location. Gary Stopani has a list of available tools you can order. They include impact drivers, circular saws, reciprocating saws, drills, hammer drills and angle grinders. They can be corded or cordless. The cordless tools come with two batteries and a charger. Contact Gary at for the order form and other information or Click on the Button: Form for requesting Hilti Tools.
February Grants and Donations
Grant activity quieted down considerably at the start of the year, which is not unusual. Here is a brief report of grants and donations received in February. Some generous donations from individuals are not listed here.

  • $7,500 for Lubbock from Betenbough Homes.
  • $7,000 for Dallas from the Sparks Osteopathic Foundation.
  • $4,170 for Austin West from Hill Country Fellowship.
  • $2,580 for Waco North from HILCO Electric Trust.
  • $1,592 for Houston from Good Shepherd UMC.
  • $1,575 for Dallas from the TI Foundation.
  • $1,000 for Austin East from Fayette County.
  • $841 for Waco South from Waco Habitat for Humanity.

Media Materials Available
Every conference attendee took home a handful of our latest brochure, calling cards with information on them, and bumper stickers. They can be handed out to potential volunteers, referral sources or funding sources. If you were not at the conference and would like to receive these materials, contact Sandy Knutson at
Handouts from Conference
Many attendees asked for digital versions of handouts they received at the conference. The digital versions can be used as templates and modified to your particular needs.

Three of these are attached.
  • Post-build letter that can be left with the client, providing information about the new ramp and inviting them to pay it forward. It comes from Gary Stopani and is in both English and Spanish (two-sided document).
  • Email report to referral source after a ramp is built. It comes from Kay Geurin and always has photos attached.
  • Template for an invoice that is sent to an agency or other entity that is paying for a ramp.

Click on the the links below:
Template for Letter to Referral Sources
Template for Invoice Reimbursement
Building Basics
Module Installation
by Roy Harrington
Building Basics
At the statewide conference, there was a lot of discussion between sessions about jigs including some that help with module installation. One version, specifically for installing the first module, Gary Stopani had on display at the back of the room with the Hilti tools. Module installation can be much easier and, in some cases, maybe even better, with a little help from a couple simple jigs.

Module Installation Jigs
When installing a module, it can be challenging to hold everything in place until someone finally sinks a couple deck screws through it into the existing porch or the end of the previously installed module. This necessary activity can be much simpler and less work using 2x4 and plywood scraps that can be found lying around after almost any ramp build.

For the first module, which is often attached to an existing porch or deck, 2 pieces of scrap plywood roughly 4”x8” can be bolted, screwed and/or glued together overlapping 1/2 of their length. This jig is then temporarily attached on the top edge of the module with one jig on either side of the upper end of the module as shown from a side view in the diagram below.
Do you have other tips or suggestions to share?

Please let me know if you have found a way to build ramps better, stronger or faster that might help other teams in the state. Send your comments, suggestions or other ideas to
Click below to open

Departure from the Ramp of the Month to a special acknowledgment for Spike Hubenak of San Antonio Central.

Spike Hubenak Wins Local TV Award
Spike Hubenak, who builds ramps with Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in San Antonio, was surprised in early March to learn he had won the local Fox29 TV’s Cash for Kindness award. He was nominated by a member of Abiding Presence. Hubenak’s stunned response was, Thank the community, thank Abiding Presence, and thank the Texas Ramp Project.”
The church will build its 100th ramp in March.
Pass the Newsletter On to Others
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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