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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Ramps on a Mission

David Chapman designs handicap-accessible ramps for Cape May County residents.  

By Rachel Rogish

CAPE MAY – “Thirty-three years ago, I received a call from my stepmother, indicating that my father had just collapsed with a brain tumor, and the doctor said he was not expected to live more than three days. I was devastated,” David Chapman wrote, in an April 8 email.  

Chapman, a retired naval architect, understands how the unexpected can change one’s life in a moment.  

“Why would God let this happen to my father? I sat down and was immediately visited by the Holy Spirit, who told me, ‘Don’t worry. Your dad is going to be OK. He’s in good hands,’” Chapman stated. His father lived for more than a year, and Chapman attributes it to God’s power.  

In 2018, Chapman was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Personal hardships, however, compel Chapman to help others with physical difficulties.  

Today, he designs handicap-accessible ramps for county residents, and the mission is growing, despite Covid. With a group of volunteers, Chapman spearheads an invasion of hope. 

Humble Beginnings  

Chapman and his wife have called Cape May home since 1983. Chapman’s career began in engineering. He worked for the federal government, designing naval ships.  

After moving to Cape May, Chapman took the position as general manager of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, where he also designed one of the vessels. He oversaw the ferry service for 15 years.  

Chapman is also a faithful member of the Cape May United Methodist Church.  

The ramp mission began in the early 80s, according to Chapman.  

“A woman who lived near the church suffered from diabetes and had to have both of her legs amputated. We got together and built a ramp to her front porch, so she could get her wheelchair down to the sidewalk,” he explained.  

The ramp mission remained mostly within the congregation until just before Covid struck, in 2020. Chapman reached out to various nursing home facilities, offering his services. Since then, the mission is on the move.  

Blueprints of Hope 

“What a blessing it is to serve our Lord and Savior, by serving others,” Chapman said, during an April 22 in-person interview.  

In late March, Chapman and his crew of volunteers constructed and installed a ramp for a stroke victim, in Middle Township. Another ramp stands in Burleigh, and another project is slated to begin in Wildwood Crest, which slowed due to design challenges.  

According to Chapman, the mission is increasing, as word spreads.  

How Does the Ramp Mission Work? 

Once Chapman learns of someone in need, he begins the design phase after visiting the site. Each ramp is constructed out of pre-treated wood. No homeowner is charged any labor cost. Chapman relies on donations.  

Each ramp costs approximately $2,200.  

As a licensed engineer, Chapman’s plans are “signed and sealed.” Wherever a ramp is constructed, a permit is obtained from the local municipality. Some permits are harder to secure than others, said Chapman, but he works with every official.  

“We are excited,” Chapman said, referring to future projects.  

Who Builds the Ramps?  

Chapman’s army is composed of people from all walks of life coming together for a common goal. For example, his church’s music director helps pre-drill holes for spindles. Volunteers assist with installation after a ramp is delivered. All preliminary work, i.e., pouring concrete, is completed before installation.  

Looking Ahead 

One of Chapman’s recent challenges is the spike in lumber prices. Wood costs increased by 72% since the pandemic, according to Chapman. Yet, he remains optimistic and knows God will financially provide.  

“God is still in charge,” Chapman said, smiling.  

He said anyone who wishes to help with the ramp mission is “welcome with open arms.”  

“I get a lot more out of it than I put in,” he concluded.  

Those who would like to assist Chapman are asked to contact him, at davechapman50@gmail.com. 

Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contactthewriteratrrogish@cmcherald.com. 

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