Retired probation officer and Hinesville resident Arthur Stewart spends his time golfing with friends, attending and serving as a junior warden at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, and building handicap ramps for physically disabled residents of Liberty, McIntosh and Glynn counties.
He and several other men from St. Cyprian’s Episcopal, St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Morgan’s Chapel Methodist, First Presbyterian, Emmanuel Methodist and St. Mark’s Episcopal churches comprise the Christian Men’s Fellowship group.
Those in need of ramps apply for grants, and when the grants are approved, Stewart and his group come to the applicant’s home for a few hours to build the ramp.
President Peyton Lingle said that since the group’s inception, its focus has been to make the lives of disabled local residents easier, and they have received help along the way.
“Since June 2003, our group has completed wheelchair ramps and other home modifications, such as handrails and special stairs, for 139 citizens of Liberty, McIntosh and Glynn counties,” Lingle said. “We have partnered with Living Independence for Everyone, who have paid for most of the materials we have used throughout the years. In addition, we received initial financial assistance from Coastal Electric Cooperative.”
Stewart has been with the group since it first was formed, but even before joining, he helped out as much as he could with his church.
He was inspired to create this group with other churchgoers after learning of two 80-year-old men at another church who were building ramps throughout the Brunswick area.
As those two men aged, they weren’t able to work on the ramps, but Stewart understood the need for such work would persist. The group came together, members chose the Christian Men’s Fellowship name, and they’ve been working tirelessly to provide for disabled community members ever since.
“We at St. Andrew’s and St. Cyprian’s Episcopal, where Christian Men’s Fellowship originated, wanted to find out what we could do in the community to help people in the community,” Stewart said. “Father Reese told us that he invited two elderly guys from another church in Brunswick, and they talked to us about what they were doing. As age goes on, they just didn’t have the manpower to continue it. They introduced it to us, so we took it on and formed the name Christian Men’s Fellowship.”
To this day, the group meets every third Saturday of the month for breakfast at B & J’s Steaks and Seafood in Darien.
About three weeks ago, the men built their 139th ramp; however, because of the hot weather, the group does not plan to build more ramps until September unless it’s an emergency.
Stewart recalled building the group’s 99th ramp, which came together with only seven men on a June day when temperatures soared over 100 degrees. He said that was their toughest ramp-building experience, and he even has a T-shirt that reads “I survived the 99th ramp.”
Even though he has faced scorching weather, occasional labor shortages and projects that involve larger-than-normal ramps, Stewart said he will continue giving back to his community simply because he enjoys doing so.
“People can’t get out of their houses unless somebody helps them. With these ramps, they won’t need anybody to take them down a set of stairs in order for them to get outside for whatever they need to go do. They can get down themselves, and they can get up themselves. It makes it easy,” Stewart said. “We do it to help those with challenges have some independence.”