Wings of Hope 4

Improving and Saving Lives: Worldwide

Volunteers are the heart and hands of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Wings of Hope nonprofit charitable organization based at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport complex in Chesterfield, according to Anne Volland.

Volland is director of administration and field director for Wings’ medical relief and air transport program headquartered at 18370 Wings of Hope Blvd.

The group’s mission is to help the poor, domestically and internationally, with sustainable programs, such as health and education systems, food and water processes, opportunities for family income, community building and conflict resolution.

Wings of Hope operates the St. Louis Medical Relief and Air Transport Program throughout the Midwest and delivers advanced health care to children who have major birth defects or who are dying from rare illnesses by providing  vital transportation. Wings of Hope operates a fleet of ambulances at no cost to users; services are also offered to adults facing major health issues that can’t be solved locally.

Volland said the organization’s philosophy is, “tell us what you need and we do whatever it takes.”

Wings of Hope was founded in 1962 by four area business executives. Hearing about a nurse in Kenya who needed help reaching out to women and children the group decided to provide her with resources.

“We are nonpolitical and nonsectarian and don’t take money from any government organization,” Volland says. “We operate entirely through donations and we use a lot of volunteers: we have over 600 in the St. Louis area. We are the largest volunteer-based charity in the Midwest, almost completely volunteer run. These volunteers do everything from purchasing and accounting to administration, reception, pilots and medics. Half of our mechanics are volunteers.”

Wings’ Medical Relief and Air Transport program is the organization’s largest effort.

“We fly a little over 400 flights a year,” Volland says. “If a parent or caregiver calls and says a child is ill and needs to get from A to B location, we take them at no cost as often as they need until they’re cured or improved.” Wings offers the only free air transportation program in the United States, Volland says.

“When we talk about the poor and destitute, oftentimes we think of those overseas,” she says. “But, even in the United States, there are people without running water or without resources to get to help. We’ll often hear about a parent who’s been told their child was diagnosed with a rare disease, and the doctor in their small town doesn’t know what direction to point them in. So we often act as patient advocates and have volunteer doctors and nurses research the illness, find the best care facility or treatment center, and call to see if the child can be seen at no cost.”

Volland explains the Medical Relief and Air Transport Program serves approximately 400 area families a year; globally, Wings serves thousands.

“Not only do we have airplanes at different bases to do medical air transport, but we also have sustainability projects, such as one for food in Ecuador,” Volland says.

“In that country, there are many remote tribes without a sustainable food source, so we have a program we’ve started with a handful of villages: the chicken food sustainability program. We buy chickens in country, take them to people in villages, and teach people how to raise them, so that they have eggs to eat. Also, as the chickens reproduce, people can share the birds with neighboring villages, which has a trickle-down effect.”

Wings of Hope was twice nominated, in 2011 and 2012, for a Nobel peace prize for its overall operations. The organization’s work fills a never ending and worldwide need.

“As we grow, and the more we help, the farther the word spreads about us,” Volland says.

“We’ve been able to help so many because of the volunteer numbers we have.We work toward helping people take care of themselves, mentoring them as advocates, sometimes monetarily but also with aircraft, supplies, or whatever they need to be successful.”

For example, in Kenya the group partners with the Transfedha organization that focuses on work with impoverished mothers and young children to help them develop small businesses.

“We help provide microloans to families to help them work and earn money so their kids can go to school and get an education,” Volland says.

In Cambodia, Wings works with an English speaking program and has helped build a school and library there.

“The program lets the kids, once they learn English, go to universities and get a higher education,” Volland says.

“Most people in these remote areas are farmers and live in poverty their whole life, with it passed down from generation to generation, and we can stop that.”

Volunteers are the heart and hands of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Wings of Hope nonprofit charitable organization based at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport complex in Chesterfield, according to Anne Volland.

Volland is director of administration and field director for Wings’ medical relief and air transport program headquartered at 18370 Wings of Hope Blvd.

At Spirit Airport, the Wings’ aircraft fleet is around 60 but only three are used on mission flights here at this time.

“People donate aircraft to us, and they are often in different states of repair when we get them,” Volland says.

“We have volunteers work to refurbish them. We can always use donations of not just money but also in-kind or other items. We even have an eBay department that sells donated items, and the money received goes into our programs.”

For more information about Wings of Hope or to volunteer, call 636.537.1302 or visit Wings-Of-Hope.org.