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Trucker Charity gives drivers a hand up, not a hand-out
When Lance Wood decided to hit up some trucker friends in order to help families in need one Christmas a few years ago, he had no idea he was kicking off an organization that would make a difference in the lives of many truckers.
In fact, Trucker Charity doesn’t look much like those early efforts at all. Instead of toys under the tree, the organization is about helping drivers who are in a tight financial spot, but also working with them through life coaching and other services so they can deal with the challenges of life on the open road.
Road King spoke to Wood, president; Ben Pernell, vice president; Isaac Bland, secretary; and Virginia Chomo, executive assistant, about the work of Trucker Charity.
Q. How did Trucker Charity come to be in the first place?
A. Wood: A guy we knew said he had $500 and wanted to help some families at Christmas. A lot of us liked the idea, and that first year we raised almost $10,000 in two weeks. A week later, we had qualified some families and distributed the money.
The next year the same people came back together, and by the third year we realized we had better set up as a nonprofit. That was in 2009, and right about that time Arrow Trucking went out of business. We had just gotten done helping families, but we jumped on the phone and got the money to send 48 drivers home from where they had been stranded. We were literally putting them on airplanes on Christmas Eve.
Q. How has Trucker Charity expanded its mission while also staying close to truckers’ needs?
A. Wood: A lot of what we do is helping stranded drivers, or drivers who have an emergency. They don’t have time to wait a few days, or a week. We get on the phone with them, vet them and cut them a check.
Pernell: We also began Last Ride Home, which returns a driver who has died on the road to where he is from. If a driver has no insurance or anything, we contact the widow and the funeral home and will arrange for transportation for the body or the cremated remains. We put a plaque on the trailer carrying the body that has his full name, his birth and death dates and a quote about our fallen brother who is going home. We present the family with the plaque and a flag that we have flown.
Q. Are there any new projects in the works for the group?
A .Wood: We are about to start a new scholarship fund for people who can’t afford to go to school but want to become drivers. We held a truck convoy and show on June 21, in Mascoutah, Ill., to raise money for that. There are a lot of good people who have the passion to drive, but can’t go off and train while leaving their families with no income. We also have begun to offer life coaching, because we hear from drivers who have a lot happening in their lives and need someone to talk to. We give them straightforward answers. Sometimes it’s a pat on the back, sometimes it’s a kick in the pants, but either way we point them in the right direction. We are all truckers, and so we know when we are being bamboozled.
Bland: We have a vested interest in helping the industry as a whole get better, and also to have trucking be shown in a better light than it has been in the past. We understand the life of the driver, and helping them is what it’s all about.
Chomo: Our charity is a lot of old-school ideas, but we’re doing it in a new age. Drivers used to talk to each other over the CB radio about their lives and their problems. Now they do that some through social media, but the industry has lost a lot of that personal contact. We’re like the CB of the trucking industry now, and people know they can call us if they need us, or if they just need someone to listen. We’re here for them.
For more information on the nonprofit group, visit truckercharity.org.