Monday, August 10, 2015

To truckers from the St. Christopher Fund: Thanks a ‘million’

August is a big fundraising month for the St. Christopher Fund with a major campaign headlined by TravelCenters of America’s Band Together effort and now a brand-new campaign: Sapp Brothers’ monthlong fundraiser. And later in the month, SCF will be in Dallas for the Great American Trucking Show.

The St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund is a 501(c)(3) truck driver charity, which helps drivers whose medical problems have led to financial hardship. Recently, SCF achieved a milestone never before accomplished in the trucking industry. It announced it has now given more than $1 million dollars to help truck drivers and their families since 2008. Are you blown away yet? One. Million. Dollars.
Photo courtesy of SCF

Dr. John McElligott and SCF's Executive Director Donna Kennedy

Assistance may be in the form of direct payment for medical services or prescription drugs, assistance with expenses while recovering from illness and out of work, and/or providing information on how to negotiate price reductions with medical providers and hospitals.

Because SCF pays bills directly, every dollar is accounted for, says Dr. Donna Kennedy, who has served as the executive director since it was established in 2007.

I’ve served on the SCF board for several years, and in my opinion Donna provides much of the stability critical to establishing an efficient charity with a solid reputation. She has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Tennessee, an M.S. in Research Psychology from the UT in Chattanooga, and a Ph.D. in Health Research Psychology from UT. Qualified in every way, she is all about helping truckers.

We have an office in Knoxville with an executive director and a dedicated staff who handles the requests for assistance. That office clearly provides a solid foundation for the charity. Shannon (loves Alabama football) Currier is our director of philanthropy and development. Julie Dillon is our communication and wellness manager. Tonya (Tennessee football) Love is our operations manager. In my opinion, it’s one of the best-run charities in the nation and is a solid example of competence.

Another longtime associate of the fund is its volunteer Medical Director John McElligott, M.D. The man called “Dr. John” is a physician at Occupational Health Systems in Knoxville, a business he started 10 years ago. He’s been an M.D. for 24 years.

More than eight years ago, Dr. John and trucker radio host Dave Nemo were inspired to take action and help truck drivers and their families who have suffered a catastrophic illness or injury. Nemo is host of the “Dave Nemo Show” on Sirius XM satellite radio. The two launched a truck driver charity that would serve as a medical crisis fund for professional drivers in need. The organization was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 2007. They named it the St. Christopher Trucker Development and Relief Fund, St. Christopher being the patron saint of travelers.

The people at SCF office in Knoxville, the medical director, officers and board members work together closely, meet quarterly, and are constantly in touch via phone and email. Tom Liutkus is president of the SCF Board of Directors. Tom is VP of Marketing and Public Relations for TravelCenters of America. He comes from a corporate culture to “support truck drivers in every way we can.” He’s been described by other board members as “uber involved.” His leadership skills are remarkable. You get addicted to Tom’s vibes.

Vice President of the SCF Board Joyce Brenny is founder and owner of Brenny Transportation in St. Cloud, Minn. Joyce has a strong passion to make trucking a better place to work. In speaking out for the rights of truckers, she’s a one-woman band whose dedication is known throughout the industry. She began her career as a trucker and is a member of OOIDA. You cannot say no to Joyce Brenny.

Tom Heinz is our treasurer. He has all kinds of degrees and is all about numbers and revenue and the mission – which is to spend as little as possible in order to give more to our truckers who need it. He’s president of Heinz Inc. and Coffee Cup Fuel Stops and Convenience Stores, and he is chairman of Natso’s board of directors. We can always depend on him to say “what is that going to cost us? Is that the best use of our money?”

Also on the Board is Dr. Tim Ridley, manager with Dave Nemo Entertainment and host of the “Tim Ridley Show.” Tim relates to people on so many levels that he’s a natural fit for the St. Christopher Fund.

Relating to people in the trucking industry is a common thread of SCF Board members. Linda Caffee, for instance, is an owner-operator leased to Landstar who is a bit of everything to everybody. She drives with husband Bob, she moderates, she blogs, and she’s a tireless advocate for health and wellness. She is a co-founder of Trucking Solutions Group, whose president is Rick Ash, owner-operator from Lakewood, Colo. Rick is a member of the SCF as well and another wellness activist. When we have our conference calls, Linda and Rick call in from wherever they are.

Buck Black is a licensed clinical social worker and owner of Trucker Therapy. Buck is another guy with a wall full of psychology and sociology degrees and certificates – knowledge he uses to help drivers with their unique needs, all done by phone or video conferencing.

David Waterman joined the SCF board in the spring. David is the North America Marketing Manager for Shell Rotella. Dave is a guy who really gets trucking, the people in it, and the challenges associated with the business. Like every single board member now serving the SCF, Dave is one of those solutions specialists. He knows how to get stuff done.

As of Aug. 7, the St. Christopher Fund has demonstrated its appreciation to 1,316 truckers with medical problems by helping them with the financial headaches caused by bills, truck payments, etc. that do not get paid when the wheels aren’t rolling. Since its inception, SCF has doled out $1,021,555.19 – in my mind, a really big thank you to our highway professionals.