A few steps are no big deal, unless you happen to be in a wheelchair or have some other disability that makes climbing stairs difficult or impossible.

A few steps are no big deal, unless you happen to be in a wheelchair or have some other disability that makes climbing stairs difficult or impossible.

That used to be the problem at the Arma United Methodist Church, but it’s not a problem any longer, thanks to a brand new elevator uniting all three levels of the church building. It will be dedicated during services at 1 p.m. today.

The sanctuary is the main level, with Sunday school rooms, conference rooms and restrooms  located just a few feet higher. The kitchen and social hall are in the basement.

“We’ve had people on the church board who can’t get up the steps to the conference room,” said Dave Bierbrodt, chairman of the church trustees. “We’ve had people who can’t get up to use the restrooms. We’ve had to carry people downstairs in wheelchairs.”

He noted that the problem affected the entire community, not just the congregation.

“We have a lot of funeral dinners here, we have a dinner every year during the Arma V-J Homecoming, and a Valentine party,” Bierbrodt said. “Every other year they have the community Christmas cantata here.”

“We’ve been talking about this problem since we’ve been here, which is since 1982,” said Murray Lockwood, a trustee.

The Tulsa United Methodist Church donated a chair lift to the Arma church, but Bierbrodt said it narrowed the stairs and many people were not comfortable riding it.

Approximately three years ago the church trustees and board decided to start fundraising to  put an elevator in the church. First donation to the project was made on June 3, 2007.

“We had over 100 sources of donations, including many from outside the congregation,” Lockwood said.

Many donations were made by in honor of deceased loved ones, according to Emma Louise Ales, chairman of the memorial committee.

“I was never turned down by anybody,” she said. “It’s wonderful how people work together when they know it’s something good.”

“Many of the Arma businesses were also supportive of the project,” said Dolores Bierbrodt, wife of the trustee chairman. “They were wonderful.”

Bierbrodt said the church shopped to find the best price for an elevator and maintenance service, and it was ordered on May 3, 2010 from Nationwide Lifts, Leavenworth.

“Technically, it’s not actually an elevator,” Bierbrodt said. “What we have is a Prolift Standard Commercial Lift , and it’s built to meet standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

An elevator, or lift, needs a shaft.

“We thought we’d do that ourselves, but the  shaft had to  be precise,” Bierbrodt said. “So we went with a local contractor, but we also did as much of the work ourselves as possible because of the cost. We dug the pit in the basement, and had to cut through eight inches of reinforced concrete, then seven inches of mud. We had everybody hauling buckets of rock and mud up  the steps.”

But all that hard work paid off.

“Three men came here from the company to install the elevator, and they said they’d never had a shaft in such good condition to receive the elevator,” Bierbrodt said proudly.

The women of the church provide meals for the company crew.

“They loved the food,” Ales said with a smile.

The elevator, or lift, formally went into service on Sept. 17, 2010.

“It holds up to 1,000 pounds, about two people and a wheelchair,” Lockwood said.

Lockwood and Bierbrodt will give a brief description of the project during dedication services at 1 p.m. today.
“It cost over $30,000,” Lockwood said. “It’s all pretty much paid for, but we will have to have  budget item for maintenance.”

Pastor Don Foster will dedicate the elevator at 1:10 p.m., with ribbon cutting at 1:15 p.m. and refreshments at 1:20 p.m.

Then there will just be one more detail to take care of — thanking all those who donated to the project.

“We’re going to put a plaque with the names of donors by the elevator door,” Ales said.

“Some were able to give more than others, but it took all of them to get this done,” Bierbrodt said. “This is what I call a labor of love.”