Retiree from Eudora gets national attention for charity ramps

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EUDORA, Kan. -- Good news travels fast. A man from Eudora has landed in People Magazine because of his generosity toward people with disabilities.

It all begins with a drill, and a will to help others.

Retired mailman Eugene Westerhouse just celebrated birthday number 87. He uses the tools in his Douglas County workshop to construct wheelchair ramps for families who couldn't otherwise afford them.

"Westie," as he's known to his friends, asks only that the recipients purchase the raw materials. The labor is on him.

"I've just always helped somebody if they've needed help," Westerhouse explained. "There isn't any reason not to."

After "Westie" builds each ramp in eight-foot sections, he and volunteers from the Eudora United Methodist Church put them together. Bill Van Der Berghe is a professional contractor who donates his time. Westie never ceases to amaze him, specially given his age.

"I think it's the fact that he keeps working," Van Der Berghe said.

"It's that old adage that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. One that's on the move stays on the move."

Count Debra and Gary Jennings among those who are grateful to Westie's work. Last June, 62-year-old Gary had a major stroke. The day after the Jennings' 33rd wedding anniversary. He can no longer walk, and without his ramp, he couldn't ride either.

"It was Gary's road to freedom, for sure," Debra Jennings said. "We wouldn't be able to go anywhere."

All told, Westie figures he's built as many as 300 wheelchair ramps for others who are in need. He told FOX 4 News God put him in this position to serve others, and there's no telling how many more he'll build.

"The Good Lord put me on this," Westerhouse explained. "He's keeping me alive and living so I can do this, so I'm going to do it."

And by building his ramps, he's building bridges to independent living.

The issue of People Magazine in which he's profiled is on newsstands now.

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