When someone needs a wheelchair ramp, Terry Macy is Project VISION's go-to guy. Since 2003, he has been involved in building around 150 of the structures, and he wants to help construct many more.
“There's no reason for me to stop,” said the 68-year-old retiree, who lives at Woodside Plantation.
Macy, who grew up in Indiana, used to work in marketing and sales for Amoco. He moved to Aiken in 2002 and became a Project VISION volunteer soon afterward.
“It's volunteers like Mr. Macy that help this program impact the lives of so many people,” said Tammy Davis, who serves as the United Way of Aiken County's director of community investment and oversees Project VISION (Volunteers In Service In Our Neighborhoods).
Project VISION provides free home repairs to disabled individuals, senior citizens and people with low incomes. There are many requests for wheelchair ramps, and Macy is always ready to offer his assistance, according to Davis.
“He serves from the heart,” she said.
Volunteer work at First Baptist Church introduced Macy to Project VISION. Even though he spent a lot of time in the corporate world, manual labor was something he knew a lot about.
“I was raised on a farm, and my father could do anything,” Macy said. “If something needed to be fixed or built, he did it, and he taught me those skills.”
During his early days with Project VISION, Macy discovered he didn't like all of his assignments, especially the ones that required him to work underneath houses.
But, after Macy got the opportunity to build his first ramp, he knew he had found his niche.
“With so many projects, it's hard to know where to start and there is no end to them,” he said. “But with a ramp, I get to design it, I work with all new material, I'm outside and it's something that can be finished in less than a day.”
Macy uses a ramp construction system that another Project VISION volunteer created that is relatively inexpensive and efficient. A five- or six-person team can build a 16- to 20-foot-long ramp in three or four hours using treated wood.
“The United Way has a contract with Lowe's, and we get a small discount on the materials, which cost $350 to $400 on average,” Macy said.
Macy also serves as a Project VISION assessor, helping make the plans for a variety of repair efforts. But ramp building is his first love, and when Macy needs to assemble a construction team, his most faithful volunteers are fellow Woodside residents Larry Buck, Larry Travis, Ed Biancarelli and Paul Hudak. Macy also has built ramps with various other people and groups from Helping Hands, USC Aiken, Paine College and elsewhere.
“We're kind of old-fashioned,” Macy said. “We hammer in the nails. We don't use a nail gun. Part of the camaraderie of building a ramp with a team is pounding in the nails.”
But the best part for Macy is after all the work is done.
“When you see that person who is going to be using that ramp come down it in a wheelchair for the first time with a big smile on their face, it's absolutely fantastic,” he said. “There are older ladies with tears in their eyes who say, 'Come here mister and let me give you a big hug.'”
Macy also fondly remembers a little boy and a little girl who both thanked him for their ramps because they were going to be able to go outside in their wheelchairs whenever they wanted.
“If that doesn't get to you, then nothing will,” Macy said.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.