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Rotary ramps up aid for Hall woman
Construction project helps wheelchair-bound resident gain freedom
Jeremy Waters, left, and Tony Herdener, a Rotary Club member, use a power auger Saturday to dig post holes for a wheelchair ramp at a Gainesville home. Several members of the local Rotary Club and other community members gathered to build the ramp for resident Becky Ketchum. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

In 1999, Becky Ketchum was rear-ended by a driver going 80 miles per hour while she sat at a complete stop on Atlanta Highway.

Since then Ketchum, who lives in Gainesville, has had numerous medical problems. As a result, she cannot walk without the assistance of a walker and often requires a wheelchair.

That created a problem for Ketchum's ability to leave her home. A few steps led to the door of the house, but there was no wheelchair ramp.

Ketchum relied on her children's help to climb the stairs. And she and her family worried that she would be trapped if a fire erupted.

That's why the Gainesville Rotary Club, along with Hopewell Baptist Church, decided to build a wheelchair ramp Saturday at Ketchum's home.

"I cried," Ketchum said when she learned of plans. "It's like God's opened a lot of doors for me. It's a blessing."

Ketchum's 14-year-old daughter approached the church without her mother's knowledge and asked if they could help.

"(I felt) very thankful," Ketchum said. "She's like a life-saver."

Sixteen people from both the Gainesville and Canton Rotary Clubs and the church helped build the ramp.

The Rotary Club has been building ramps for disabled community members as part of an ongoing service project.

Brian Gracey, co-chairman of the ramp committee for the Rotary Club, said the club has built 36 accessibility ramps in the past three years and plan more.

The club has endured grueling temperatures while building ramps all summer, so Saturday's cool temperatures brought relief.

"It's a relief whenever there's not hot heat," said Alison McElvery of the Rotary Club.

Danny Rincon of Gainesville, not Rotary member, decided to volunteer after recently working on another project with the club.

"I just like helping them out every once in a while," Rincon said. "I just love it. That's really what I'm all about is helping people out, because people have helped me out and I feel like I should give back."

Along with her daughter, Ketchum has two sons ages 16 and 8.

"It's been real hard for the kids because I'm usually ‘active mom,' she said.

Until two months ago, Ketchum was able to walk on her own, but one morning she woke up with back pain and her legs swollen. Doctors have told her that due to bulging discs pressing against the sciatic nerve, her nerves may already be too damaged to allow her to ever walk without assistance.

Ketcham's ailments include optic neuritis, a condition involving inflammation of the optic nerve causing temporary vision loss. Doctors now believe she may have multiple sclerosis, but Ketchum said they aren't certain what her condition is.

"I feel like it's a ‘Dr. House' kind of condition," she said.

Ketchum was attending cosmetology school, but she is not sure if she will be able to complete her remaining six months because of the health problems.

Ketchum said she was very thankful for the support of the local organizations.

"I don't want to be this way, but I wish I could pay back these people," she said. "I want to give back and someday I will. I've just been blessed."