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About Senior Corps 
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Hurricane Volunteer Support Fund
In the wake of the recent hurricanes, the Corporation is coordinating volunteers to assist with repair and relief efforts in areas affected by this devastating storm. Your donation will support volunteers in providing food and shelter, managing donations, helping victims get necessary assistance, and long-term rebuilding efforts.
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USA Freedom Corps Partnering to Answer the President’s Call to Service
 
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For Individuals > For Current Members and Volunteers >
 
Stories of Service

 

Senior Corps

 
Butch Smith
Mercy Medical Airlift
 

“You can’t come in.”

Those words slammed like a door in Butch Smith’s face.

Again and again various officials told the Angel Flight pilot he couldn’t enter overcrowded Baton Rouge shelters to rescue patients desperate for medical treatment following Katrina.

Confusion, red tape, and crossed signals were hindering the life-saving work of Angel Flight. In one shelter, the River Center, dozens of dialysis patients were sharing a single machine.

“They had asked us to come down,” Smith says. “Patients with medical conditions needed to be moved.”

Besides being a pilot, Smith is the chairman of the Katrina Task Force Committee for Angel Flight America (AFA) and the chairman of the board of directors for Angel Flight South Central. AFA is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to serving people in situations of compelling need by arranging free air transportation, enabling patients to travel to specialized medical facilities for the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of their illness or disease.”

The pilots, certified as first responders, use their own aircraft, time, and fuel for missions, never charging for their services. During the hurricane disaster, their main priority was to transport relief workers into the area, and evacuees out. In the days and weeks following, the pilots relocated and reunited families, flying over 2,000 missions in all.

The Homeland Security Emergency Air Transportation System (HSEATS) that certifies the pilots, was created in 2002 through a grant awarded to Mercy Medical Airlift by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Mercy Medical is a member of Angel Flight America, along with the six regional Angel Flight organizations that are flying hundreds of missions related to the hurricane disaster.

CNCS recently added two supplements totaling $288,000 to the grant “to support volunteer pilots to undertake medical and search and rescue missions in states affected by Hurricane Katrina,” according to a CNCS news release.

Smith said he and other members of an Angel Flight crew took charge of the medical crisis and flew 40 dialysis patients out of River Center to other facilities. “We saved their lives,” he said.

 

 
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