Some people look outside and complain about the rain while others see a job in the offing. When Jim Rankin looked outside, he saw school kids standing in the rain and getting cold. So he went to work and built a bus stop for the neighborhood kids who often had to wait for their school bus in the drizzly Northwest weather.
“We have about a dozen kids in the neighborhood, and two buses every morning an hour apart. The kids always arrive
about 10 minutes before the bus comes and they were out there standing in the rain,” said Rankin, a retired lawyer who relocated from Santa Cruz, California to Blaine in 1999. “So I fixed them up.”
He bought the materials, and applied for permission from the city to build it on the right of way.
The eight-foot-high shelter is made of treated fir and was screwed together to allow for easy dismantling. Simple and to the point, it does the job it was intended for as children gather under its eaves each morning.
“They’re using it. I put a bench in there for them and a trash can because I noticed candy wrappers on the ground after they left each morning,” he said.
“I found some plans online that were basic and I modified and improved them,” he said, noting that it took him about three weeks to build the shelter due to the aforementioned rainy days. “Really it only took three days’ worth of work,” Rankin said. “I spent summers on a ranch in South Dakota with my grandparents, and my grandfather was very handy. I learned a lot of simple carpentry and I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands.”
He plans to paint it over the summer.
Beyond lending a helping hand to the neighborhood kids, Rankin is putting his skills to good use by heading up a wheelchair ramp construction program in conjunction with the Community Assistance Program (CAP) in Blaine.
He built his first ramp in Birch Bay in 2012. “The Birch Bay Lion’s Club asked me if I would do it, and I said yes,” he said. “There are a lot of older people in our community, and a growing need for wheelchair ramps.”
Jerry Williams, director of CAP, said that they receive one or two inquiries a year from residents in need of a wheelchair ramp. “Clearly there was a need, but the major challenge for the CAP was labor. We haven’t been able to provide a solution until now.”
Williams said Rankin approached him last fall to see if CAP would like to sponsor the ramp program for people in need. Rankin presented his plan to the CAP board in November where it was approved. He now has a cadre of five volunteers who work with him to complete each project.
“The ramps are all constructed so that they can easily be dismantled if they are no longer needed,” Rankin said. “That way we can recycle them.”
Since the ramps can be costly, the group needs to raise funds for each project, as they can only be sponsored in part by CAP. “Funding is a collective sacrifice,” Williams said. “We anticipate that the outreach can support 4 to 6 requests per year, depending on the complexity of the projects. We’re grateful that Jim and his team have made this outreach possible.”
Those who wish to support the program with building materials or financial donations, or residents who need assistance with a wheelchair ramp can call CAP at 360/392-8484 and leave a message with their name and phone number for more information.