Ramped up

Those most responsible for the new access ramp at the Platte Canyon Community Center include, from left, Tom Duffy (Commander of VFW Post 8661), Paul Engelbrecht (VFW Post 8661 member), Bubba Chester (VFW Post 8661 member) and Matt O’Brien (local contractor). The group volunteered about 70 hours of time and braved freezing temperatures and heavy snow to get the new ramp built. (Photo by Kelly Kirkpatrick/The Flume)

Thanks to the Home Depot Foundation’s 2018 Community Impact Grant, and the generosity of Lambert-Wright-Roy VFW Post 8661 members and friends, those with physical challenges will enjoy vastly improved access to the Platte Canyon Community Center for many years to come

Tom Duffy, the Commander of Post 8661 which represents the Bailey chapter and meets at the Platte Canyon Community Center, identified the need for upgraded access to the county-owned facility and began looking into viable options.

“Nonprofit organizations can put in for grants with the Home Depot Foundation for certain types of projects,” Duffy explained. “So we got plans together and itemized all of the materials for them, and they approved the grant for $2,323. That was great news, because the old access ramp was in dire need of replacement.”

After spending considerable time and effort preparing the request and procuring the grant, Duffy still had a hurdle to clear in terms of constructing the ramp, handrails, additional decking and necessary signage.

Such jobs are accompanied by strict safety specifications and code requirements, and the amount of materials required for the task was considerable. In order to adhere to new building codes for access ramps, the new structure also had to face the opposite direction of the old one. The old structure, of course, also had to be demolished and removed from the premises.

Making matters even more challenging was that the Platte Canyon Community Center is considered a historic structure. Code requirements prohibit any new construction materials being directly attached to the existing structure.

The job was waiting, but who would be willing to dedicate the necessary time and energy to get it done?

Enter VFW members Paul Engelbrecht and Bubba Chester, along with Chester’s son-in-law, Matt O’Brien.

“Matt has his own contracting company and he is a busy guy, but he dumped a lot of man-hours and expertise into the project,” Duffy said.

“It was very generous of all three of them to put in the time and effort required to get this done in the way it needed to be done. The structure is now set in cement, constructed with pressure-treated lumber, and all completed according to code requirements. It was also all done at no expense whatsoever to the county.”

O’Brien, owner of Bulldog Bath and Tile, admitted that the project required about 70 hours of his time.

“It was a rewarding project to be a part of,” O’Brien said. “But I think one thing that has been lost these days in our society is the willingness to help our neighbors. There is also a lot of animosity and division in the world today, and we all need to try to be more loving and caring to each other. So I try to give people a hand when the opportunity arises.”

The concrete foundation for the new access ramp was poured in mid-October, at which time the area received about a foot of wet, heavy snow.

“The project took ten days, and weather was definitely a factor,” O’Brien said. “It was snowing and about eighteen degrees when we poured the concrete, but we managed to work through it.”

Engelbrecht and Chester, meanwhile, both O’Brien’s seniors by several decades or perhaps more, never wavered in their commitment. The same sense of community and service to others which prompted them as young men to risk everything on distant battlefields for the benefit of their country, still drives them today.

“That’s what VFW is all about,” Chester said. “We are a community-based organization of U.S. veterans, supporting not just other veterans, but also the community,” Chester said. “Bailey is the epitome of a village, and it takes a village to support and take care of one another.”

Engelbrecht agreed. Even though he openly admits that the art of building access ramps is not necessarily in his natural wheelhouse of specialties, he was happy to lend his assistance.

“I have some, but not a ton of experience in these types of projects,” Engelbrecht said with a chuckle. “I was a production mechanic at U.S. Mint for many years. But I still wanted to volunteer my time to help these guys out.”

The Lambert-Wright-Roy VFW Post 8661 offers an all-you-can-eat breakfast to the community on the first Sunday of each month at the Platte Canyon Community Center from 7:30 until 11:30 a.m.

For more information about VFW Post 8661 and its activities, the public can contact Duffy directly at 720-255-8447.

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