Hometown Hero An Angel Earned His Wings Realtor® flies patients to out-of-town medical treatments and appointments.
When it comes to helping others, the sky’s the limit for Jeff Clark, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker in Stuart.
A private pilot for 20 years, Clark began flying missions two years ago for Angel Flight Southeast, a nonprofit organization that arranges free air transportation for people needing medical care. He decided to donate his services after reading a newspaper article about volunteer pilots who were delivering supplies to areas devastated by the 2004 hurricanes.
Since signing up, Clark has flown transplant recipients, cancer patients and handicapped children for treatment and checkups. Trips typically take one to two hours one-way, and Angel Flight tries to keep its pilots within 300 miles of their home base. Clark usually flies three or more routes in one day—to pick up and drop off a patient and return toStuart Airport.
“The first time I picked up a passenger, it really floored me,” says Clark. “They all drive you to tears. Even as a grown man, I [find it] amazing.”
Clark, who says he’s more of a “people person” than one who’s into community service–type clubs, says that many of his passengers find the plane’s close quarters a welcoming place to talk, though a few prefer to sit quietly throughout the flight. His single-engine plane seats just four passengers. “Most of the people I transport need it—meaning, they can’t afford the trip,” adds Clark, who uses his own plane and buys his own gas (airports usually give him a discount on the $4- to $5-per-gallon fuel).
Angel Flight maintains a calendar, and pilots may schedule their flight dates on it as early as six months in advance. Clark usually signs up forat least one mission every month. “You can fly pretty much any day of the week,” he says. “ Every day at 5:30 p.m. a list [of flights to be made] comes out, and there’s an 800 number to call [to schedule a flight].
“I recently picked up a man and dropped him off in Miami for an evaluation for a kidney transplant,” continues Clark. “I really feel that it’s a worthwhile and gratifying thing to do. They’re all very gracious, and so grateful. They can’t thank you enough.”
More than 850 pilots volunteer for Angel Flight Southeast. The organization’s coverage area includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and North and South Carolina, and it also coordinates missions to fly victims of abuse seeking relocation, families receiving help from Ronald McDonald Houses, Shriners Hospitals and many other charities.
To qualify to fly for Angel Flight, pilots are required to have completed a minimum of 250 hours as pilot in command, submit a membership application, valid pilot’s and driver’s licenses, and proof of logged flight hours. Want to Contribute?
Visit Angel Flight Southeast online at www.angelflightse.org
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