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Church volunteers builds wheelchair ramp for Castorland pastor

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DEER RIVER — The Rev. Joyce E. Miller was hospitalized for nine months following surgery on her back in which her spinal column lost signal to her brain.

Since then, she pretty much has been trapped inside her home, using only a small board placed over her porch steps to get in and out.

However, that changed Oct. 19, when a group of eight volunteers from Watertown’s Emmanuel Congregational Church built her a wheelchair ramp.

“It is so easily accessible. I have freedom to get outside,” the 56-year-old said. “I feel much more secure knowing, should there be an emergency, that I can get out of the house.”

“We’re a (United Church of Christ) and she’s the pastor of a UCC church up there. She had a temporary ramp, but it was hard to get up and down,” said Linda Cole of Emmanuel Congregational. After the new ramp was installed, the Rev. Ms. Miller, who was pastor of Castorland Baptist Church — “had a smile ear to ear.”

According to Ms. Cole, the church has a mission team that has traveled to Kentucky three times, and for the past two years it has helped build ramps while there. “This was our first attempt doing one by ourselves, but we were really pleased because none of us are carpenters. All of our skills were learned from going on a mission trip,” Ms. Cole said.

“Their teamwork was amazing. They had everything in place and assembled in a short period of time,” the Rev. Ms. Miller said.

Ms. Cole estimated the project took the team most of the morning and part of the afternoon to complete.

While the Rev. Ms. Miller is thankful for the assistance from the church group, she admits there is still a lot she has to do. “In order to come home (from the hospital), I had to have a Hoyer lift to get in and out of bed, which I purchased for $1,800. ... I couldn’t have afforded that ramp,” she said. “The next issue I have to tackle is transportation.”

She is unable to travel in a car, and can go shopping only with the assistance of agencies such as Lundy Services Medical Transport or Adirondack Medical Transport. She would have to either purchase a van with the necessary equipment or continue to rely on the transport agencies, which she admits are both costly.

She also would like to obtain a power wheelchair for comfort.

There is some hope her condition may get better, the Rev. Ms. Miller said, but in the meantime, she is planning for the long term.

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