CSEP completes new ramp

Published 9:54 am Thursday, September 28, 2017

SEVERN – The whirring sound of a saw filled the air, punctuated by the familiar thunk of a hammer against nail.

The Community Senior Enhancement Program (CSEP) put the finishing touches on a new handicap-accessible ramp here Tuesday morning. They did it with the help of Dominion Energy, which provided both money and labor for the project.

The senior center is housed in the Meherrin Cultural Arts Center located on Highway 35 right across the road from First Baptist Church Severn. The building was originally a Rosenwald School, but has since been repurposed to provide a place for local seniors to gather twice a month.

The previous wheelchair ramp was in disrepair and needed to be replaced, and that’s where Dominion Energy came in.

CSEP board member Mary Stephenson applied for a grant from the Dominion Foundation, the charitable arm of its parent company, in order to replace the old ramp. The Foundation regularly awards funds locally to nonprofit organizations in need.

Workers are shown cutting the final few pieces that were added to complete the ramp project.

“Our ramp was in poor condition, it was rotting. The slope was not right,” said Phyllis Newsome, Director of CSEP. “Now with the way they have it designed, it should be a smooth ride for whoever’s handicapped, using crutches or a wheelchair.”

Construction on the ramp began last week, although the preliminary work beforehand took a bit longer. According to Newsome, they worked in conjunction with Dominion on the planning and purchasing of materials.

“They gave us the check. We went and purchased the materials, transported them back here,” Newsome said of the process to get everything ready for construction. “They are supplying approximately 75 percent of the labor.”

The rest of the elbow grease on the project came from a few members of the senior program as well as from the community.

“All the people can benefit from the use of it,” said Rev. Elisha Barnes, pastor of First Baptist Church Severn and one of the people who helped start the senior program four years ago.

Barnes also said the church had been trying to fix up the building for years, and he was pleased CSEP was able to put the former school to good use.

Chris Decou, a representative of Dominion who helped with the ramp construction, said he had travelled from the Outer Banks to assist with the project alongside several local Dominion employees.

“We’re just glad to do it,” Decou explained over the sound of power drills finishing up the last parts of the ramp. “Dominion gives a lot back to communities everywhere. They’re able to give us time to do the volunteer work.”

Newsome said she and the rest of CSEP were very pleased with the assistance from Dominion on making sure their building will be more accessible for everyone.

“Little bitty steps, but we’re getting there,” she said optimistically.

CSEP hosts meetings from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every first and third Wednesday of the month.