The Kazim Hillbillies and Carroll-Grayson Shrine Club members seen locally in Christmas parades and parking cars at Labor Day are the tip of a compassionate public service iceberg. A shiny new van seen recently in seasonal celebrations is one example of community service concealed below the waterline, so to speak.
Kazim Hillbillies Director Glen Jennings said the biggest humanitarian duty for the vehicle will be transporting patients (and their families) to hospital and treatment at Shriners Hospitals. Jennings said the two groups decided on raising money for a van to improve transportation for young patients and their families. Jennings praised Jeff Johnson Chevrolet, who heard of the effort and stepped up, allowing the Shriners to participate in the process, netting them the vehicle at a cost of $33,477.
“We asked Jeff if we could be involved in the bidding and he said yes,” Jennings said. “Jeff is a force in the community who helped Shriners spend their money wisely. He won the bid and got us the van.”
Recorder Gary Huffman said Shriners raise millions each year to support a network of 22 hospitals. There are four temples in Virginia including parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. (Kazim Temple is headquartered in Roanoke.) He said there is no expense to qualified patients and their families for treatment whether they can afford it or not.
“Shriners enjoy the fraternal focus on charitable community service,” said Huffman. “Shriners have it deep in their hearts to help kids. Vans are used for appointments as well as treatments. We’ll pick up a patient and their family, transport them and even arrange for overnight arrangements when necessary.”
Jennings said around 23 years ago the groups took gate management and security at Galax’s seven-day Fiddlers Convention as a fundraiser. Last year the groups added gate duties for the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Post 1115 Labor Day Gun Show and Flea Market and Kanawha Valley Arena LLC. It has also become a regular fixture at the Galax Moose Lodge’s bingo events every fifth Tuesday.
“We assist a lot of organizations and our major emphasis is the hospitals,” Jennings said. “In 2013 we donated $14,000 alone (to help locally).”
The groups are composed of about 50 members, who donated approximately $18,000 in 2015 and raised $23,000 in addition to the van project in 2015. Each club has a “road runners club” who serve as drivers for patients and their families.
Jennings said donations have to go toward designated projects. He said for instance, in 2013 blanket warmers were provided for Intensive Care Unit patients and in addition to the van project beginning in 2015, donations went towards a specialized X-ray machine.
Shriners Hospitals for Children is a network of national non-profit medical facilities. Children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay. Jennings said an estimated 1.3 million kids have been helped since the Shriners started. Information can be obtained at http://www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/
Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, the hospitals, known as “The World’s Greatest Philanthropy,” are owned and operated by Shriners International, formerly known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, a Freemasonry-related organization whose members are known as Shriners. Patients must be minors under the age of 18 and are not required to have any familial affiliation with the Shriners order nor Freemasonry.
Shriners Hospitals for Children is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and relies on the generosity of donors. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law.
Jennings said Shriners quickly learned there were two additional needs in supporting their mission to care for children, research for better treatments and to educate medical professionals. The resulting three-pronged mission impacted medical care for people of all ages all over the world. Specialization has also led to equipment in Shriner hospitals not available generally in other facilities.
“We have just opened a hospital in Johnson City (Tennessee) so we keep growing,” said Jennings. “People are finding out what we are doing. Advertising has helped get the word out.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on [email protected]