Sharing Success Helps Hope Take Flight
“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” Earth Angel Aviators (EAA) Secretary-Treasurer Paul Knese says as he welcomes Cuivre River Electric Cooperative General Manager/CEO Dan L. Brown to the hangar. A Cessna 185 rests there between missions of hope.
Brown arrived with good wishes and a $10,000 Sharing Success grant jointly funded by Cuivre River and CoBank, a cooperative-owned bank in Denver.
Celebrating "Sharing Success," (L-R) Cuivre River Electric Cooperative's (CREC) General Manager/CEO Dan L. Brown joins Earth Angel Aviators (EAA) President/Pilot Joe Tebo, Director of Maintenance/Pilot Larry Wehrman, Secretary-Treasurer/Pilot Paul Knese and CREC Manager of Communications Mary Jane Clark. Funds will help provide free airlift services from rural areas to medical facilities throughout the Midwest. (Not pictured: EAA Vice President Dean Skelton.)
Cuivre River’s Board of Directors nominated Earth Angel Aviators to receive the national grant by pledging $5,000 and applying to CoBank.
“I’m grateful to our Directors for making this commitment, and to CoBank for its generous program to help a very special organization in our community,” says Brown.
EAA is a small but powerful 501(c)(3) charity that transports persons in need from outlying areas to hospitals and medical facilities throughout the Midwest. “Your gift will make it possible for us to continue to provide airlift services to those who truly need help and do not have the means,” says EAA President Joe Tebo, a founding member and volunteer pilot for the charity. There are no paid employees; everyone is a volunteer.
“You have no idea how much this helps,” says Knese, also a pilot. Coffers were running very low when Brown notified the organization about the unexpected grant. EAA relies on donations to cover its modest but unrelenting overhead costs, including insurance, gas, oil, maintenance and hangar rent. “Ninety–nine cents of every dollar goes to support our mission,” he adds.
A few dedicated pilots and airplane mechanics formed Earth Angel Aviators in 2004 as an expression of Christian charity. Each volunteer followed a personal mission to transport people who need help. “Many people can’t handle a long car trip or may not be able to fly commercially,” Tebo says. "We can help." The group operates from Wentzville, and the aircraft is based at Spirit of St. Louis Airport where the runway is lighted and pilots can land using instruments.
Despite its suburban home, the plane and its pilots retain the capability to fly out of remote or unimproved airports if their mission requires. With a 750-mile travel radius, the Cessna can reach the Mayo Clinic and many Midwest hospitals from many rural areas. The aircraft also has stretcher capability; it can accommodate patients with very limited transportation options.
“It carries about 5.5 hours of fuel under normal conditions, but that’s a really long ride for most of our patients,” Tebo says. A typical mission consists of a 2.5 hour flight to pick up or return a patient.
To make it possible to deliver humanitarian relief as well as transport patients, EAA and its aircraft worked to obtain First Responder status from the Department of Homeland Security through EAA’s work with the Angel Flight network.
“It’s important to raise public awareness to help fund our mission,” says Tebo. “It’s even more important to make sure people know we're here to help when needed.” The group takes referrals from United Way's 2-1-1 network, the Angel Flight network, and a network of local churches. The Division of Social Services helps provide screening to verify a family’s need for the free service.
In addition to funds, another important resource is sometimes in short supply. “We need pilots, too,” Tebo adds. EAA seeks pilots who are certified to fly the Cessna 185 and willing to volunteer their time in service to others.
To inquire about medical transportation, to donate or learn about volunteer services needed visit www.EarthAngelAviators.org or call Tebo at (636) 327-6321.
About Sharing Success: The CoBank program celebrates the vital way cooperatives serve their local communities. CoBank challenges cooperatives all across the country to nominate local non-profits by committing matching funds of up to $5,000 to share their success with their community.
“We're gratified to have a role in helping hope take flight,” Brown concludes.