Wednesday, November 27, 2013

‘Just because’

OOIDA Member Don “Jailbird” Schmidt and wife Kim.
It’s about trucking, friendship and sticking together. It’s about being thankful and giving something back, says a trucker known as Jailbird.

He’s talking to me about a group of drivers and others who are deeply rooted in the trucking industry and who make long miles on the road go by faster by staying connected with each other on a daily basis. Spreading the news, discussing issues, or just sharing highs and lows of the day – Jailbird says it’s purely a social thing.

I get it. Smartphones, texting, email, Facebook, tweets. I know a thousand times more people than I did years ago and I have to admit that keeping up with your friends is good for the soul.

OOIDA Member Don “Jailbird” Schmidt stopped by OOIDA headquarters recently. He and his wife spent some time visiting with me, recalling how his small group got started and how they are now doing much more than just keeping in touch.

“It started about four years ago. About seven of us were talking on the phone a lot, just chatting on our cellphones almost daily,” he said, “and it just made sense to go to a chat line. So we did.”

Now there are about 30 regular callers. Don says he can call the chat line anytime and someone will be there. The chat line is called “Jailbird’s conference” or JBC, which Don says can also stand for “Just Because.”

The JBC conference chat line now has an open Facebook page – J B C – that includes 310 friends who make comments and post photos anytime day or night. Kim Schmidt is the page’s administrator, monitoring the posts.

He throws out names like Flagwaver, Fisherman, Jon O, Braindead, Candy B, Bobby Boofay, Straycat and others. I give an affirmative nod to each name as he’s talking and think to myself, is it weird that I actually know them all?

Don says the group is more than just friends, they are “family.” And along with sticking together, they step in and help each other and even hold fundraisers to support their favorite causes.

The helping hand efforts began when one of the original members needed assistance and the others bailed in and sent her some cash.

Somebody said, “We should start up a charity.”

The charity work started off small, doing a couple of fundraisers. Because they were not a 501 (c)(3), they decided to hook up with another trucker charity that is. They affiliated with Truckers United for Charities.

“And we’ve become very involved with Truckers United for Charities and all the projects they do,” says Jailbird.

The JBC group started off with a dunk tank, a couple of 50/50 raffles and a T-shirt drive. During the first week of August, they have their own truck show in Perrysburg, Ohio – the Schmidts’ home town. Now, they are planning a repeat of their “drag race” fundraiser at Papa John’s during the 2013 Mid-America Trucking Show.

Kim tells me for MATS 2014, the beneficiary that the group has designated is OOIDA, specifically Truckers for Troops and the OOIDA Mary Johnston Scholarship Fund.

“Many of us are veterans and we really like the Truckers for Troops effort,” says Don. “And the scholarship fund? How many of us truckers have kids and want them to go to college? The students that will get this money are OUR kids.”

“People ask all the time why we our group exists, why we do this stuff,” he says. “And I say, well … just because. That’s all.”