Tuesday, February 7, 2012

‘Trains, buses, leather and heart’

Trucker Charity is a 501(c)(3) organization that specializes in helping truckers. In their own words, they “get ‘em safe, get ‘em fed and get ‘em home.” Most of its members are OOIDA members, and they are a unique bunch.

Recently, OOIDA Member Kerry Mullins – secretary of the Truckers Charity – shared with us an account he wrote about one of their rescue missions. And we can’t resist sharing this story with readers.

Kerry called it “Trains, Buses, Leather and Heart.” That title works for us. Here’s Kerry’s account.

What happens when a group of truck drivers, volunteers, a young man from a small town and a charity set their minds on something? Mountains get moved.

Vickie Ewert contacted Trucker Charity Friday with a unique problem. Vickie’s an owner-operator expediter out on her own, living on the road for three months at a time. She was in Meadville PA, but lives in Spooner, WI, 900 miles away, and she had to get herself and her truck home for the long journey to recovery – a recovery from a broken hip suffered at the receiver after falling on the ice.

The folks at Trucker Charity put their collective minds together and come up with a plan of action. It fell through. Vickie could not take a bus or a plane because of her injury. She had to be able to stop every hour to move about to prevent blood clots. Not possible in a bus or a plane since she wasn't sure on her feet yet, and what about her truck?

So they came up with another plan, and it fell through. They couldn’t coordinate a driver to pick up a volunteer in Wisconsin that was en route to somewhere Pennsylvania. They had a driver volunteer to pick up Vickie and her truck and drive her back home. They had found a driver in the area but missed a connection by three hours.

Debbie Tucker, the most recent member of Trucker Charity and recent beneficiary of the charity’s yearly Christmas Group had a brainstorm. She called around looking for a volunteer and found Logan Taylor, just 20 years old, who attends Debbie’s church. Logan came highly recommended as a responsible young man who could do the job.

We were to get Logan out to Vickie, and he would drive her truck back to Illinois. There a couple from Vickie’s home town who volunteered some time would meet them and take her the rest of the way home. Then we’d get Logan back home. This would allow Vickie to get her breaks in and get her and her truck home.

Now comes the tricky part, the timing and the funding, Vickie gets officially released Monday morning. At the beginning it was going to cost $1,000. Trucker Charity is known for squeezing a dollar out of a dime. They’ve had to because they don’t solicit government funding and rely solely on word of mouth, networking and a Web store for their funding. They call on fellow drivers/OOIDA members to help fund the operation, and they come through.

OOIDA member and TCI Secretary Kerry Mullins and Debbie started crunching numbers, checking bus and train schedules, figuring out times and checking with Vickie for the OK to proceed. All done but the doing.

The trip for Logan consisted of a train ride from Galesburg, IL, to Chicago with a 10-hour layover, then a train ride from there to Erie. Then he was to walk 1.5 miles to the bus stop (dollars out of dimes, no taxi) where he’d take an hour ride to Meadville, PA. There he would have to walk another 11 blocks since the bus driver wouldn't drop him off at the hospital that they were passing.

We call Vickie and tell her he’s on the bus and on his way, and then gas is thrown on the fire. Vickie’s doctor won't release her without the shot needed to combat the clotting. She hasn’t any insurance or money to pay for it, and it’s quite pricey. We get on the phone with the nurses and wrangle with them for a couple of sample doses for Vickie for her ride home. Shots in the stomach, ouch, but fire put out.

As the trip went on, we all kept in touch with Vickie and Logan to make sure everything was going as planned. The handoff in Rockford went as planned except we found out they took the toll road all the way across (dollars into dimes, dangit) but with Vickie being cooped up like that it was the best, quickest way to finish the trip.

Vickie arrived safely at home Tuesday and called to express her gratitude to all that came to the aid of a fellow driver. We gave her information on where to get help with her meds, called the Salvation Army and were able to get her two nights in a hotel (ground floor, her son’s apartment isn’t) and contacts with other local help. To add to the problems she faces at home both her children, a son and daughter, are in casts as well. It hasn’t been a very good winter for Vickie's family.

Logan volunteered his time without ever asking what was in it for him. At Trucker Charity we do what we can do with what we got and somehow it seems to get done. We can’t always help everyone but when we can we do.

Speaking of life experiences, what did Logan think of it? Well, we asked him if he had ever thought of a career in trucking. His response was, “Not until now.”

It looks as if we have the making of a future highway hero. Maybe we can help. It does get in your blood.