Des Plaines Community Foundation, Jen School students build ramp for disabled resident

Des Plaines Community Foundation, Jen School students build ramp for disabled resident

  • Steven Moraitis is now able to go to doctor appointments using a motorized wheelchair and new metal ramp donated by the Des Plaines Community Foundation and built by volunteer Paul Bartholomae and Jen School students and staff.

    Steven Moraitis is now able to go to doctor appointments using a motorized wheelchair and new metal ramp donated by the Des Plaines Community Foundation and built by volunteer Paul Bartholomae and Jen School students and staff. Courtesy of Beth Ulloa

  • Recently completed through a special ramp program, the Des Plaines Community Foundation, city of Des Plaines Health and Human Services office, volunteer Paul Bartholomae and Jen School students/staff help the community. This ramp was located four blocks from the first aluminum ramp ever built by the Des Community Foundation 25 years ago. This is the 56th ramp built by the foundation.

    Recently completed through a special ramp program, the Des Plaines Community Foundation, city of Des Plaines Health and Human Services office, volunteer Paul Bartholomae and Jen School students/staff help the community. This ramp was located four blocks from the first aluminum ramp ever built by the Des Community Foundation 25 years ago. This is the 56th ramp built by the foundation. Courtesy of Des Plaines Community Foundation

  • Sean Bartholomae assists with the installation of Steven Moraitis' ramp. Sean was the "job coach" for some of the grant projects his father, Paul Bartholomae, worked on with students at Maine West High School to build both metal and wood ramps and sheds.

    Sean Bartholomae assists with the installation of Steven Moraitis' ramp. Sean was the "job coach" for some of the grant projects his father, Paul Bartholomae, worked on with students at Maine West High School to build both metal and wood ramps and sheds. Courtesy of Des Plaines Community Foundation

 
Submitted by Aimee L. DeBat
Updated 1/26/2021 9:34 AM

Steven Moraitis is going to be more mobile in 2021 thanks to the Des Plaines Community Foundation and volunteer Paul Bartholomae, also known as "Ramp Man."

Moraitis's life changed three years ago as he was driving through the city of Chicago. According to Beth Ulloa, Moraitis's mother, he got caught in crossfire between police and gangs. Moraitis was shot in the head and was badly injured. The stray bullet entered behind his left ear.

 

He survived and has been undergoing rehab. He is currently using a motorized wheelchair to go to doctor appointments.

But getting him in and out of the house proved challenging.

"Retired teacher Paul Bartholomae, who is known to the Des Plaines Community Foundation as the 'Ramp Man' in Des Plaines, was there as usual offering his ramp-building expertise," said Rosemary Argus, executive director of the Des Plaines Community Foundation.

"The Ramp Program at the Des Plaines Community Foundation is a great asset for the community and for the students who are eager to learn construction skills," said Argus.

For the past 25 years, Bartholomae has volunteered his services, working closely with the Des Plaines Community Foundation and building-trade students to assemble metal and wood wheelchair ramps in Des Plaines.

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He has been retired for the past four and a half years from Maine West High School, but now works with the students at Jen School.

"When Steven came home from the rehab facility, I called the community outreach at the city of Des Plaines and spoke with Kathy Puetz, community social worker at the Health and Human Services office," said Ulloa. "That was how it began."

The city's Department of Health and Human Services forwards requests for wheelchair ramps to Argus and the Des Plaines Community Foundation, which relays them to Bartholomae.

"What makes the program so successful is the cooperation among the students," said Bartholomae, a 35-year veteran instructor from Maine West High School.

Ulloa is also disabled and has trouble navigating the stairs of her Des Plaines home of nine years. She is caring for her son after the accident. Steven also has two small children that frequently visit their father, she said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Ulloa and son were using two expandable scaffolding planks to get Steven in his wheelchair to his doctor appointments," Argus said. "It's a wonder they did not have an accident."

Paul's son, Sean Bartholomae, also assisted with the installation of Steven's ramp.

"My son was the job coach for some of my older projects when we had after-school grants to build both metal and wood ramps and sheds," said Bartholomae.

"Sean comes to the job site and takes over and gets the job done," said Bartholomae. "He rescues me when I need to be rescued. I work ahead, so when he comes, he can knock it out in a day.

"We saved about $1,800 by using leftover parts from other ramps built, which were returned when they were no longer needed," said Bartholomae. "My daughters, Bridget and Heather, as well as my grandchildren Miles and Cloe, helped transport the 8-foot ramp and the 5-by-5-foot platforms we were able to use for the second time."

Ironically, this ramp was about four blocks away from the first ramp built 25 years ago. This is the 56th ramp the Des Plaines Community Foundation has built with the help of building-trade students.

Jen School students worked on the pre-assembly of the metal ramp parts at the warehouse at Maryville. The students worked for two days assembling the ramp so it was ready to put together on-site.

"The plan has been to divvy up tasks and bring different strengths to the table. And they work -- just like a real-life crew," said Bartholomae. "It is really a hands-on experience for some of these students, and the experience can turn into a future career."

It can take anywhere from six weeks for an aluminum ramp and three months to build a wooden ramp, depending on the size.

"It means the world to me to be able to get my son in and out of the house safely -- like if there was a fire or an emergency," said Ulloa. "Especially now with his new motorized wheelchair that weighs roughly 344 pounds. I am so thankful to everyone that helped make this ramp possible. It really means a lot to me and my family."

"The Des Plaines Community Foundation appreciates Paul Bartholomae, and sincerely thanks him for his work with the Jen School students in Des Plaines," said Argus.

The supplies for the ramp totaled more than $6,000, which was donated by the Des Plaines Community Foundation.

"The ramps are the most important thing we do for the Des Plaines residents in need," said Bartholomae. "It becomes a problem when the elderly or disabled can't get out of their homes to get to the doctor."

Bartholomae will continue to volunteer his time with Jen School students. Many of them have preferential learning styles like hands-on and visual learning. These alternative learning styles help expose the students to experiential learning.

"The wheelchair ramps allow folks to go to the park or doctors' appointments," said Argus. "The building trades students have touched the lives of residents, young and old, with various challenges."

Some of the Des Plaines Community Foundation's programs include Neighbors Helping Neighbors Program Committee; Healthy Community/Healthy Youth Program Committee; Intergenerational Program Committee, and Seasons of Service program Committee.

The foundation is 100% volunteer. The Des Plaines Community Foundation is a 501c3 organization and funds are obtained from individuals, businesses and corporate tax-deductible contributions, as well as from other foundations.

For information, call Rosemary Argus at (847) 525-5566 or visit www.desplainescommunityfoundation.org.

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