St. Louis Chapter 99s - Wings of Hope Project
By Karen Clines
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN PILOTS / 99 NEWS
Members of the Greater St. Louis Chapter of The Ninety-Nines exert their energy on every level at Wings of Hope, the largest international volunteer charity in the Midwest. Headquartered in St. Louis, Wings of Hope reaches out worldwide using aircraft as a tool to assist the poor. In the past 40 years since its founding, the organization has placed 136 aircraft into service, bringing hope to people around the world where the use of aviation is vital.
Last year the chapter members tackled a tremendous assignment at Wings of Hope: helping to refurbish a DC-3 aircraft -- and one with an amazing story attached.
This plane originally rolled off the line in the spring of 1942, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the Normandy invasion, it dropped American troops over the beachheads of France and then served as a transporter in Africa and later in the United States. And 60 years later, during most of 2002, several members of the Greater St. Louis Chapter - Jean Murry, Delia Greer, Ruth Bohnert, Teresa Camp, Gussie Freese, Jan Pocock and Esther Grupenhagen - helped refurbish this aircraft as part of the "Rosie the Riveter" crew at the Wings of Hope hangar.
They worked outdoors in the bitter cold and the grueling heat while putting life back into the metallic heart of this old, yet noble, plane by spending hours drilling out rivets, stitching and sewing, scraping masking tape and old paint, redrilling holes for rivets and recovering the fabric control surfaces. The refurbished plane now serves the poor as a heavy supply link to remote locations across the entire Western Hemisphere rather than fulfilling wartime duties.
Jean Murry and Delia Greer not only spent their Saturdays at Wings of Hope working on the Rosie project, but they head off for fieldwork assignments whenever the opportunity fits into their schedules. Jean just returned from a two-week mission to Ecuador where she and five other Wings of Hope volunteers assisted the residents of the villages. A severe malaria epidemic is now rampant in that region of the world, where people are dying daily and suffering from a multitude of other medical conditions.
Late this spring, Wings of Hope will initiate its St. Louis-based Medical Air Transport plane, which will provide transportation for poor children and their families in the Midwest to specialized treatment centers such as St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Shriners Hospitals and others in St. Louis. Immediately upon hearing of this new project, Delia Greer stepped up to the plate and offered to become one of its flight nurses. It is just this spirit of The 99s that this phenomenal group of women regularly brings to Wings of Hope.
I had the privilege of attending a meeting of the Greater St. Louis Chapter of The Ninety-Nines recently and met many of its members. Although I'm not a pilot, it did not take long to feel the camaraderie these women enjoy.
For more information, please see www.wings-of-hope.org.