A woman called a member of the Mountain Shrine Club in November to say that she would no longer need the gas money the club had been giving her to transport her child for scheduled appointments at the Shriners Hospital in Lexington. The woman told the club’s outgoing president, Bill Frazier, that she didn’t have a vehicle capable of making the trip.
Frazier began thinking that if this woman didn’t have adequate transportation to take her child to the Shriners Hospital then there must be more families in Letcher County facing a similar situation.
Frazier then looked into finding a van to haul children and their families back and forth to the Shriners Hospital in Lexington for orthopedic needs or to the Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio for burn care.
While in Lexington on Dec. 10 for his wife’s dental appointment, Hall drove by the Oleika Shrine Temple in Lexington to see if any vans were available. He drove a seven-passenger van to Whitesburg that same day, and is now serving as the hospital van director for the Mountain Shrine Club,
“I really feel like some of the families may have needs that didn’t have transportation and weren’t aware that we could provide this service,” said Frazier. “We really didn’t realize the need was that strong.”
The Whitesburg Shriners are waiting to make their first trip to a Shriners Hospital in the newly acquired van, which has a car seat and a booster seat. Since club members will now be providing transportation to and from the Shriners Hospitals, they will no longer provide gas money.
“We will pick them up at their home and take them to the hospital,” said Frazier. “We meet their appointment. We will wait on them while they are there. The hospital feeds them lunch. Then we return them home, all at no cost.”
At least 13 volunteer drivers have signed up to participate in the new program.
“We’re excited to play a larger part,” said Frazier. “It gives us another opportunity to help kids, and that’s what we are all about.”
To help raise funds for the van and other community service programs, the Mountain Shrine Club holds a fish fry at its clubhouse near Pine Mountain Junction at 5 p.m. on the first Friday of every month.
“Everything is focused on supporting the hospitals and the building,” said Frazier, the club’s president for 2010. “It’s all volunteer.”
This year the Shriners allowed local Girl Scout troops to use their building as a distribution site when the cookie shipment arrived. The Shriners also participated in a fund-raiser for a local autism awareness group in 2010, and worked with Cumberland River Coal Company to distribute Christmas gifts to families in need.
The club also prepares food at community events including the Kids Day Back-to-School Bash and the Senior Day football game at Letcher County Central High School.
“We’re trying to join hands with the community as much as we can,” said Frazier.
He said the Whitesburg club has helped 114 children in the last 35 years.
To receive services from the new van program, call 1-800-237- 5055 or 1-800-653-4525.