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Service club hopes to add members

Posted: February 6, 2013 - 1:35am
Pilot International members and volunteers sort toiletry items to give to spinal-cord-injury patients at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.  Special Photo
Special Photo
Pilot International members and volunteers sort toiletry items to give to spinal-cord-injury patients at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.

When she moved to the area in 2007, Elizabeth Copeland wanted to remain active in Pilot International.

She had joined in 1985, when a friend invited her to attend in Waycross, Ga.

Copeland helped with community service projects such as building a gazebo to beautify a city park, and she looked forward to such community service.

But there were no Pilot clubs here, and she missed it.

“So I contacted the state officials and asked how to establish a club,” she said.

While the local chapter has seven members, Copeland hopes to attract more.

Pilot International began as a volunteer service organization in Macon, Ga., in 1921.

In 1991, the organization decided to focus on brain-related disorders, which include brain injury, developmental disability and chemical dependency.

Though small, the group has tackled a few major projects in keeping with the organization’s mission.

One was to outfit club member Bryan Hensley with a multimedia projector and screen to help him share the story of his traumatic brain injury.

Hensley had fallen into alcohol and drug abuse and sustained the injury while driving under the influence. He was driving 85 miles per hour when he crashed his sportscar into a tree.

Now he shares his story with schools and civic groups throughout the area as a warning to others.

“We found out a couple of groups had asked him (to speak) and they didn’t have a projector for his computer to put his show up,” Copeland said. “We found the funds and got him a projector and screen so he can take that with him to the speeches.”

The local chapter members also volunteer in the spinal cord unit at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.

One of the members works in the unit.

Once a month, members visit patients, play games and present a program to entertain them.

“They work real hard all week with the therapists, but on the weekends there’s nothing on their schedule, and they’re bored,” Copeland said.

In December, members presented patients with bags filled with toiletry items they had collected that patients don’t normally receive, such as nail clippers.

Members also go into schools with Pilot’s BrainMinder program to teach children about safety.

That program has been extended to include visits to nursing homes with a similar message of brain safety. Each Christmas, the group sponsors a family from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.

Near the end of every year, members decide which projects they would like to work on during the following year.

They plan a budget, decide how to fund those projects and assign tasks. Each member gets a copy of the plans for the following year, which Copeland calls a yearbook.

The Pilot Club meets once a month at Walton Rehabilitation Health System in Augusta.

The next meeting is 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, though members start gathering at 6:30 p.m. for snacks and socializing.

Anyone interested in joining is invited to attend. For more information about Pilot International, visit www.pilotinternational.org.

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