A driving force for good.
It’s been a year since the launch of our Community Heroes grant program. And in that time, we’ve had the pleasure of supporting four – and counting – local organizations in their quest to empower and uplift the communities where they live and work.
For a deeper look into who these organizations are, this blog series will focus on the inspirational stories behind some of the 2017 and 2018 Gexa Community Heroes grant winners and their invaluable contributions in and around the Houston area.
Many of us have to deal with a major medical condition at some point in our lives. And regardless of who the patient is – you, a family member, a friend – the overall impact is often very similar. First, there is the stress of the illness or condition itself that affects both the patient and their loved ones. On top of that, there’s the daunting challenge of finding specialized medical care, especially if it’s out of state or country. Often costing patients around $11,000 over the course of their treatments, travel expenses like hotels and transportation are sometimes the only thing preventing a patient from getting the treatment they need to be well. Fortunately, in the Houston area, one organization is helping to fill this “simple, vital need,” and lightening the load for patients and families alike.
The idea for Houston Ground Angels came to Kathy Broussard in 2000. It began one day when Broussard, a private pilot who volunteered to fly medical patients into the Houston area, was on the phone with one of her clients, Eva Tovar. Tearfully, Tovar told Broussard that she was canceling her flight to Houston, “because she could not afford the cost of ground transportation between the airport and MD Anderson (cancer) Hospital.” This didn’t sit well with Broussard. She knew Tovar was actively battling cancer and that without treatment, Tovar’s hopes for recovery would have taken a serious toll. With this as her motivation, Broussard not only flew Tovar, free of charge, to Houston, but she also drove Tovar to and from MD Anderson for her treatment. And with that, Houston Ground Angels was born.
What began as a simple call for volunteers in a local newspaper has now transformed into a volunteer-run success story. Officially founded on June 27, 2005, Houston Ground Angels now provides medical patients and companions arriving at any Houston area airport with free ground transportation between the airport and their medical treatment facility. With every new “mission,” Houston Ground Angels meets patients with a friendly face and helps relieve their companions of the added stress, and costs, that come with navigating a new city. In the years since its founding, the organization has also spearheaded collaborations with Pilots for Patients, Angel Flight and others to expand its services and offer even greater support to those who need it most. It’s the work of angels, or, as we see it, true heroes.
Late last year, one of Houston Ground Angels’ board members – also a Gexa customer – received an email about Gexa’s Community Heroes grant. And the rest is history. The fourth and final 2017 Community Heroes grant recipient, Houston Ground Angels received a $500 grant to put towards its services in the community. With this money, the organization was able to purchase additional uniforms for their volunteers, an important visual cue for patients looking for their drivers in busy airports. On top of that, they also used some of the funding to buy window flags for volunteers’ vehicles to offer patients another way to identify that their driver is a credible member of the organization.
But it’s clear that no matter how the organization grows and evolves, Broussard’s founding mission still remains core to the work of Houston Ground Angels. As a testament to this commitment, the organization continues to focus on the expansion of its services. Although it currently is able to accommodate a staggering 92 percent of patients with ground transportation, they still see room for improvement. This year, Houston Ground Angels is focusing their efforts on recruitment, hoping to close that eight percent gap and have enough volunteers to take on every mission request they receive. Helping elevate these efforts, the organization is working with a volunteer web programmer to update their website, and has even started conversations with local hospitals and medical providers to see how Houston Ground Angels can assist with transporting patients to and from their facilities.
For more information about Houston Ground Angels and their work in the greater Houston area, visit http://houstongroundangels.org/.