By Kerry Evans-Spillman, Land Line staff
Truckers have come together for each other as long as the industry has been in existence. Yet, no matter what, there always seem to be those gaps in available help.
One group that’s been trying to fill those gaps has gone from its former pass-the-hat existence to an official not-for-profit organization.
The Jacob Russell Boulanger Memorial Fund started out as “Friends of Barb Wyatt.” The group was inspired by a generous woman who served as the moderator of the Truckin’ Bozo’s interactive website for many, many years and who was a dear friend to many truckers.
Members of the group honored Barb’s memory by helping other truckers when they could, urging those who received the help to pay it forward instead of paying it back.
Now, they are an “official” charity.
Many of the members of the group are also faithful listeners of the “America’s Truckin’ Network” on 700WLW. Host and personality “Bubba Bo” has always shared Barb’s sense of community in trucking.
When Bubba Bo’s son, Jacob Boulanger, unexpectedly passed away in July 2009, truckers rallied around their friend.
During the 2011 Mid-America Trucking Show, OOIDA Life Member Don McKinley of De Mossville, KY, approached Rusty Wade. The two tried to think of a way to honor Jake and also create a more official outlet to help truckers in need.
It was during the truck show that the foundation meeting of the Jacob Russell Boulanger Memorial Fund was held.
The JRB Memorial Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization, and its purpose is simple: to fill a gap between other trucking assistance and charitable groups.
“The big thing that we’re trying to do right now is help anyone we can and help as many people as possible,” said Rusty, an OOIDA life member from Brundidge, AL, who is known to most truckers as “Yoda.”
When recruiting the core group of board members and alliance members to work for the fund, Michael Frybarger said founding members “looked for people they knew who believed in the mission of drivers helping drivers.”
Michael, who is an OOIDA life member from West Unity, OH, explained that the fund wants to work with other charities and organizations to make the industry better as a whole.
How they help
The group’s commitment to helping others goes beyond monetary needs.
Dave Smith, president of the fund, says truckers do have to meet certain criteria for assistance. Each time a need presents itself, the board has to unanimously agree or no funds will be released.
However, all hope is not lost if a trucker should fall short of the fund’s requirements. If the group can provide assistance to a trucker without spending money, they will use their collective trucking network to find solutions.
Dave hails from Omaha, NE, and is also an OOIDA life member. He says some people who didn’t meet the criteria were still able to receive assistance. Members of the fund were able to make phone calls and get them pointed in the right direction toward the help they needed.
Support for the fund has come from a variety of sources beyond individuals making monetary donations. In fact, it has even been able to work with companies to secure donated trailers for the fund’s disaster relief efforts.
Dan Wallen, an OOIDA member from Conover, OH, and part of the fund’s alliance, drives for ABF. His company was instrumental in supporting the fund’s disaster relief efforts.
“I’m very proud of what ABF has done,” he said. He is especially thankful to his co-workers and supervisors at the Dayton, OH, terminal.
The trailers ABF donated are currently in Ider, AL, storing donated items to be distributed to tornado victims as they rebuild their homes and their lives.
Many truckers say the industry lacks a sense of helpfulness or community. The volunteers of the JRB Memorial Fund have proven otherwise.
To learn more and to support their efforts, visit jrbmfund.org. LL