An organization that provides financial assistance to semi-truck drivers in need is experiencing its own financial challenges after the cancellation of the Mid America Trucking Show (MATS) deprived the group of a key fundraising opportunity.
The St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund typically raises about $4,000 per show, executive director Donna Kennedy told FreightWaves. More than that, "it's a huge awareness raiser," with the "residuals" stemming from meeting donors one-on-one leading to significant fundraising long after the show is over.
"It does really impact our fundraising ability," Kennedy said. She declined to reveal, specifically, how much the organization had raised so far this year but said donations were already down significantly.
MATS was to have taken place this week at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville. The conference attracted more than 72,000 attendees and around 1,000 exhibitors last year.
Founded in 2008, the St. Christopher Fund offers financial assistance to semi-truck drivers and their families when an illness or injury causes them to be out of work.
Assistance may be in the form of direct payment to providers for household living expenses such as rent/mortgage, utilities, vehicle payments and insurance. The Fund also provides applicants with information on how to negotiate price reductions with medical providers and hospitals.
The group's current fundraising challenges come as the organization expects more applications related to the coronavirus pandemic, a crisis that already poses unique challenges for the organization's method of determining eligibility for its services.
According to Fund guidelines, drivers have to provide medical records showing financial difficulty, a requirement that is complicated by the dearth of testing kits.
If a driver tested positive, then that would qualify as a medical problem that caused him/her to be off the road – and he or she would be eligible for financial assistance, according to Kennedy.
As the virus continues to spread, the Board is exploring "the appropriate thing to do to stay within its guidelines," she said.
Since 2008, the Fund has given $3 million in financial assistance. The amount has helped 2,805 drivers and their families.
In 2019 alone, the fund distributed $487,000 on behalf of 344 truckers and their families.
Now that record of giving is at risk, just when the money is needed most.
"It's so tough, because we expect there to be so many cases of drivers [with problems], and we don't have the funds to help in all these situations," Kennedy said.
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