June 19 2014 by Carol Layton, NCBAM

    Connie Clark’s home sits high above a peaceful tree-lined street in Lexington. Its broad and comfortable front porch is tidy and swept clean. Potted plants cozy up next to each of the old porch’s posts – peace lilies, anemones and hydrangea cuttings each enjoying their own slice of shade. Clark and her daughter Barbara sit with their faces full in the sun looking down onto the street.
     
    The steps of this old porch have witnessed many stages of this family’s history – babes in blankets being carried carefully, toddlers climbing down backwards, and teenagers taking them two at a time. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren now continue the story when they visit.
     
    Surprisingly, this mild morning does not contrast much to the years when Clark, now 87, and her husband Thomas raised nine children in this house. Four boys and five girls grew up here, attended nearby schools and walked to church services on Sunday. Another child, a daughter, died at birth.

    When asked if raising a baseball team of children kept her and her husband busy, Clark chuckles – amused at the naiveté of the question. “No, we kept them busy! When they got big enough to work and help, we saw to it that they did.”
     
    Daughter Barbara is also surprised by the assumption that a home with nine children means chaos. “It was always real peaceful. We weren’t rowdy or loud. We were taught not to bother the neighbors. And it wasn’t just the nine of us kids here; neighborhood kids played here, too. There’s no one like our parents. They raised us right.”

    ramp06-19-14.jpg

    NCBAM photos
    Connie Clark, 87, was one of the Lexington recipients April 26 during Rampin’ Up! as part of Operation Inasmuch, a two-day event focusing on building ramps through the N.C. Baptist Aging Ministry and N.C. Baptist Men.

     

    Barbara is the fifth-born and now cares for her mother fulltime. Most of the surviving children live nearby and visit frequently. On this morning, two of Clark’s children stopped by – first, a son with a few bags of groceries, and later, another daughter with lunch for everyone.
     
    Clark and her husband Thomas met at church, wed after his military service in World War II and were married for 60 years. A stroke in 1998 left him in a wheelchair. One of their sons built a ramp for him alongside the tall porch – the porch Thomas had bounded up for decades with all the stuff of life – groceries, mail, lunch bags for his workday at Coble Dairy, and many times with a baby or toddler.
    Their son’s well-made ramp served Clark’s husband until he passed away in 2007.
     
    When Connie Clark began using a wheelchair two years ago, the ramp was again put into use. However, 15 winters had weathered the boards and made the ramp difficult to maneuver.
     
    Barbara explained the need for a new ramp, “After Mom took a spill on the old ramp, it made her not want to go out; she was scared of falling again. When we would push her over the big hump, she would hold on tight to the arms of the wheelchair, afraid it might topple over. She got to where she wanted to just stay home.” 
     
    Connie Clark’s social worker put her in touch with the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) for a needed ramp. NCBAM was able to connect Clark’s family with Keith Mendenhall and his ramp-building team from First Baptist Church of Welcome.
     
    On April 26, Rampin’ Up! teams rose before the sun, loaded pickups with lumber and saws, and headed out to spend the day building wheelchair ramps. The biennial Rampin’ Up! event sponsored by NCBAM and N.C. Baptist Men (or Baptists on Mission) impacted hundreds of lives as North Carolina Baptists served as the hands and feet of Jesus to make life better for church members, neighbors and strangers in need. One of the many to be blessed was Connie Clark.
     
    The steep front yard and driveway at Clark’s home posed unique challenges for Mendenhall’s team. It wasn’t possible to replace the existing ramp in the same location and meet current building codes. The new ramp exits the opposite side of the porch, slopes to a platform, turns 90 degrees, and then slopes to the sidewalk. Mendenhall and his team took care to provide a solution that would work well for Clark and her family.
     
    Mendenhall appreciates the additional opportunities for ministry that Rampin’ Up! provides. “We hope this ramp gives Ms. Clark and her family piece of mind to safely get her to vehicles or just beyond the front porch to enjoy being outside.”
     
    Mendenhall’s crew from FBC of Welcome included Tom Angell, Stan McCann, Jeremy Sweat and Chris Spaugh. A family – Danny and Christina Hutcherson and their children, Christopher, Nathan and Lauren – from Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville also helped to complete the project.
     
    The new ramp allows her to connect more frequently in her community, this pleasant neighborhood in which Clark for decades was a lively part. Clark can now leave her home safely and without fear. “I was a knockout in my day,” she laughs – the sparkle in her eyes shaming the morning’s sun. As her laughter subsides, she takes a deep breath and softly closes her eyes – perhaps remembering the years she and Thomas spent living, loving and keeping nine children busy in their home high above the street.

    6/19/2014 9:56:28 AM by Carol Layton, NCBAM | with 0 comments
    Filed under: community service, NCBAM, Rampin' Up!




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