Congregation members at First United Methodist Church of Gonzales have been conducting missionary work in other parts of the United States and overseas for years.

But, here at home, the need is just as great.

That’s why Ed and Margaret Holton, of Maurepas, revived the church’s defunct Helping Hands ministry earlier this year to help the elderly and disabled in Ascension Parish.

“It’s amazing what you see in your own community,” said Ed Holton, 58. “The people who are struggling just to have a decent roof over their heads and a floor under their feet.”

The church’s Helping Hands Ministry provides minor home repairs for those in need, particularly if these much-needed repairs affect the health and safety of the home’s residents, Holton said.

One of the greatest needs the ministry has seen is a request for wheelchair ramps, he said.

The ministry has partnered with the Ascension Council on Aging for help in identifying needy residents and raising funds for the project, said Darlene Schexnayder, COA executive director.

“They’re doing great work,” said Schexnayder. “We appreciate all the work they’re doing for the senior citizens.”

The COA is a nonprofit group formed to help Ascension senior citizens remain independent and self-sufficient as long as possible, Schexnayder said.

Holton approached the COA for help in identifying those who could use assistance and Schexnayder said she “jumped at the chance.”

The COA depends on volunteers plus social workers, home aid workers and even home meal delivery drivers to identify those in need of services, she said.

In addition to wheelchair ramp construction, Helping Hands Ministry also performs minor home repairs like basic roofing work or building porch railings free of charge, said Schexnayder.

Holton said the Helping Hands Ministry always welcomes volunteers but is really in need of monetary donations to the group’s GoFundMe fundraising website.

It costs between $700 to $1,000 to build just one wheelchair ramp, according to standards from the Americans with Disabilities Act, Holton said.

Although First United Methodist Church of Gonzales congregation members have donated tools and equipment, Holton said the volunteers need funds to buy raw materials.

The Helping Hands Ministry is scheduled to complete five wheelchair ramps by the end of fall and there are already a dozen names on the COA’s waiting list, said Holton.

Holton said he hopes the community will help support the ministry.

“It just really touches your heart when you see how much it means to the people who we are able to help,” Holton said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

For more information, call the Helping Hands Ministry at (225) 363-7018 or visit the Helping Hands Ministry GoFundMe fundraising website at gofundme.com.