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A ramp has given Rudy Peterson an opportunity to enjoy his surroundings.

Before the ramp, the Fremont man, who is in a wheelchair, couldn’t get outside of his house.

“I hadn’t been in my backyard for over a year,” Peterson said.

Then Fremont High School students in the SkillsUSA organization — working with Rebuilding Together — constructed a large wooden ramp at Peterson’s home.

Now, the Korean War veteran can spend time outdoors.

“When the boys got done with that ramp, I took my dog and went outside,” he said. “That’s what I’d missed more than anything. Just the simple things, feeding the birds and throwing the ball for my dog.”

Other area residents have benefited from ramps provided through Rebuilding Together, which is planning a fundraising event.

On Thursday, the organization will have a barbecue from 5-7 p.m. in the gymnasium at Trinity Lutheran Church and School. The public is invited.

Cost is $10 per ticket. Children ages 5 and younger get in free.

The menu is barbecued pork, cole slaw, baked beans, chips and beverages. Hot dogs will be available for children.

Students Noah Ondracek, Wil Neuhaus, Joe Keller from SkillsUSA plan to be at the event.

Fourteen students worked on building the platform, but Ondracek, Neuhaus and Keller installed and finished the ramp. They then presented the project at the Nebraska State SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference, which took place April 20-21 at the Qwest Center in Omaha.

There, they won first place in the Career Pathways Showcase competition in the Human Services division, said Keith Cunnings, SkillsUSA adviser and Rebuilding Together board member.

Now, the students are eligible to compete in the National SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference Louisville, Ky., in June.

Peterson appreciates the students’ work.

“They did a wonderful job,” he said. “They’re industrious young guys. They’re going to go far.”

Area residents, who attend the barbecue, can learn more about Rebuilding Together and SkillsUSA.

Rebuilding Together’s mission is to transform the lives of low income homeowners by improving the safety and health of their homes and revitalizing communities, said Brad Wiese, executive director.

The service area runs along U.S. Highway 30 from Schuyler to Arlington, north to the Dodge County line and south to Valley and Wahoo.

Money raised at the barbecue will go toward the work of Rebuilding Together.

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Wiese noted that the Fremont Area Community Foundation has awarded a $20,000 matching grant for the ramp program.

“Every time, we raise $5,000, we get $5,000 from the foundation, up to $20,000 for 2016,” Wiese said, adding, “We have several ramps waiting to be put up. We’re trying to raise the money for that.”

Wiese said the ramps, which go to elderly and disabled individuals who met program qualifications, can help increase their mobility and give them hope.

Ramps are built and installed by SkillsUSA students in partnership with Rebuilding Together.

SkillsUSA is designed to improve the quality of America’s skilled workforce through a structured program that includes leadership and technical and professional skills training.

Local students in the organization benefit by working on the ramps. They learn the basic design and layout of the ramps and construction techniques.

“It gives them some real-life application to the skills they’re learning in their industrial tech classes,” Wiese said.

Wiese hopes area residents will attend the barbecue.

“We’re expecting at least 300 people,” he said.

Those who want to learn more about Rebuilding Together can visit rebuildingtogetherpve.org or call 402-727-7047.

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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