A group of young men interested in law enforcement didn't let rain deter them from their recent mission of assisting a family in need.
Five members of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office Explorer Post 63, along with help from Grovetown Department of Public Safety officers and Augusta/CSRA Habitat for Humanity, spent a recent Saturday building a wheelchair ramp onto the home of a Grovetown mother and her 4-year-old daughter, who was born with spina bifida.
"They are lifesavers," said Tala Capistran, who has lived in her mobile home off Katherine Street for nearly three years.
Capistran said her daughter, Maria Clara Capistran, underwent nine surgeries by the time she turned 2 years old. Maria, a pre-K pupil at Grovetown Elementary School, started speech therapy when she was 2 1/2 and physical therapy at age 3, her mother said.
"It's been very difficult," she said.
Before the ramp was built, the family entered the home by steps, which weren't in good condition.
"This child is in a wheelchair, and they did not have wheelchair access to their house at all," said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Clay Smith, of the sheriff's office Community Services Division.
The ramp is both in accordance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Grovetown city codes, Smith said.
The group worked on the project for about seven hours, some of it in the rain.
"It's just amazing that they give up their Saturday after going to school all week to do something like this," said Smith, who also helped build the ramp.
The post's sergeant, Tyler Bultman, said he enjoys helping others in the community. The 16-year-old became part of the Explorer program more than a year ago.
"I think they really appreciate it," said Bultman, a junior at Lakeside High School. "It's a good thing."
Smith said the idea for the project popped into his head one night after watching a TV commercial about Habitat for Humanity. He then contacted Dennis Hoyt, the executive director of the Augusta/CSRA chapter, and the plan went into motion.
Hoyt said he believes the newly-built wheelchair ramp will make the Capistrans' lives much easier. He considered the group that worked on the project "fine servants for our community."
The Explorer program is designed to highlight the essentials of law enforcement for high school students, allowing them to observe daily operations of the sheriff's office. This includes traffic stops, domestic violence training and crime scene investigations.
"This actually shows them the other side of law enforcement, where we go out and help the community, because a lot of people don't see that," Smith said. "All they see is the negative stuff."
Capistran said the ramp will provide them with much-needed help.
"They don't know what they've done for me with this," she said. "To me, they're just amazing."
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