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Take Off Talk

Distance can be a major barrier to accessing quality healthcare in a timely manner. For patients, access to air transportation can make all the difference in getting the treatment they need. However, flights can be expensive, and putting off medical care because of costs can put you or your loved ones at risk. That's where Angel Flight East comes in.

Welcome to Take Off Talk with Angel Flight East, a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating free air transportation for children and adults with medical conditions who need treatment far from home. Our organization covers a 14 state footprint from Virginia to Ohio to Maine and for further distances, we partner with other public benefit flying organizations.  No matter how many times you need to get to your medical treatment or see a loved one in need, we are here to help. Unfortunately, few people know about free services like ours, and thus cannot use them when needed. We don't know how many people forgo medical care because they don't have accessible transportation, and that's what this podcast is here to change.

Get More Than You Give: Power Of Volunteering With Rich Cohen

TTAFE - DFY 26 | Volunteering

When you volunteer, you get more than you give. In this episode, Jess Ames and Maddy Beck welcome Rich Cohen, one of their dedicated volunteers at Angel Flight. Rich shares his journey into volunteering, explaining how he stumbled upon Angel Flight years ago and instantly felt connected to its mission. He then takes us inside the Wings & Wheels event, highlighting its growth and the positive impact on fundraising for Angel Flight. What is more, Rich shares his life outside of volunteering, touching on his passion for music, management roles in various businesses, and frequent travels. Tune in for a heartwarming conversation with a dedicated volunteer making a difference in his community.

 

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Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

In this episode, we have one of our volunteers, Rich. I know that I say this so often to our audience who read repetitively but you're a different type of guest for us because you're not a pilot but you're still a volunteer. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with Angel Flight?

I started living here years ago. I had some time on my hands. I've always been an aviation enthusiast. The airport is right here. I drove through. I was looking for some opportunity for something, maybe volunteering or working. I wasn't sure what I was looking for but I saw the sign for AFE. I went home, googled it, and learned a lot about it. It sounded perfect for me. I put in an application online. Within a week or so, I was volunteering. It's been several years that I've been doing this.

You're still with us.

I'm still with you. I still love it. It gets better and better. It's come so far since when I started. It feels like it was the early days but it wasn't. It felt like it. Compared to now, it's run very well. The events have gotten so much bigger. It's been a phenomenal opportunity for me to volunteer and feel connected to something like this.

Speaking of events, you are our Co-chair of Wings N' Wheels. How has that been for you?

 

TTAFE - DFY 26 | Volunteering

 

Wings N' Wheels is a tremendous event. We're going to start working on it soon. There are a lot of moving parts but it gets better every year. We get the word out. We see more people. We have more events at Wings N' Wheels. Plane rides are always a huge thing. It's a great fun day.

Wings N' Wheels is one of our big community events. It's also a fundraiser for Angel Flight. We take over the airport wings field where we're based. It's antique cars, airplanes, and a pretty large kids' activity area. Rich runs the plane ride tent where our volunteer pilots come out and do sightseeing flights for attendees for $50 a person. That's one of the most popular features of Wings N' Wheels, as long as the weather's good, which we always cross our fingers for.

That's the main concern leading up to it. We've been very lucky over the years. We've had a few delays but nothing all day, which has been great.

It's always a Saturday after Labor Day and my birthday weekend so you can come celebrate with 2,500 of my closest friends.

Don't forget the tremendous part of the show. We have a tremendous variety of cars, old, new, and everything. I love it that way. A lot of people show up every year who love to support the organization and love the event.

Do you volunteer for any other organizations in the community?

I do some other volunteering but nothing means as much to me as this organization.

You're not as involved with those you're cheating on us with is what you're saying.

We do consider that cheating.

I am looking for opportunities. I do have time to do that and I do get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction out of it. Many things about Angel Flight East work for me like the people and the mission. It's across the street from my house. I give you guys 90% of my time.

We'll take 97%. That's fair. Are there any stories that stand out to you from a volunteer perspective? Is there a patient story that you've heard from being in the office? Did you get to go on a flight or anything else in between?

I haven't been with patients that much. The ones that I have been wonderful because of the appreciation they have for what you do. I can't think of any stories that I can repeat here.

I feel like that's from the love ladies.

I'm thinking, "What was he talking about?"

If anybody wants to take me on one of the flights, I'll be glad to go.

Have you gone on one?

I have not.

We should be fired.

I agree. I had an opportunity to go a few years ago and for some reason, I couldn't make it.

We're going to have to change that.

I guess they said, "He refused to go that time. We're never going to call him back."

We're the worst friends ever. We'll get you on one. Don't worry.

I don't need that part of the age of play, although that's a wonderful part of it. I love doing the events and helping out with those. Santa Fly In is coming up. It's a lot of fun. Santa comes in on the helicopter. Who doesn't love that? The gala is coming up shortly. There are lots of activities throughout the year that I love to be involved in.

Whoever is involved in running events, if you have ever used a square or any type of credit card processing system, it's always a little bit of a gamble. At the gala, pretty much everybody comes to check out at once. I always cross my fingers that our credit card swiper works. In 2022, we had the problem that we couldn't connect to Wi-Fi. Rich is always so calm and collected like, "It's fine. Take your time. We'll figure it out." I'm like, "This is going to be a disaster."

I was going to bring up the square swipers as well because Rich is the volunteer who, at our events, taught me how to use them. At the golf ball drop, he's like, "No, Maddy. Give it to me. You count the ticket." I was like, "Deal. I can do that."

You're the expert. It's funny because I mirror you. You are always so calm. You probably aren't inside but outside you're very calm. We get it done. Things come up all the time and you do what you have to do.

What advice would you give to anyone who may be interested in volunteering, not just for Angel Flight but for any nonprofit in their community?

There are so many ways to do it. You can volunteer your time or money with donations. You can interact with them on social media. That's always good. For me, find something that you want to do and then it's always a pleasure to do it. That's what I found here at AFE. If you ever call me up to do anything, I'll drop everything and be over there in five minutes. My advice is to find something that you want to help out with. There are so many opportunities locally and anywhere that you're living.

I feel like as long as you have a hobby, there's something to volunteer within that hobby. If you prefer animals, there's always an ASPCA or even the Pilots N Paws. If you like aviation, come hang out with us. If you like something else, go do it. There's something for everybody.

 

TTAFE - DFY 26 | Volunteering

 

A lot of people need volunteers to be able to get everything that they need to get done. It depends on how it fits into your lifestyle and what makes you satisfied. I get more satisfaction out of volunteering than I feel like I get more than I give.

From a nonprofit's perspective, volunteers are critical to what we do. Not only do you keep us sane during events but the day-to-day office tasks that sometimes we don't have time to do, we are so appreciative. I don't think we could ever say thank you enough, especially to you because you do drop everything to come.

 

TTAFE - DFY 26 | Volunteering

 

I've always felt that you appreciate my time and effort. You remind me of that constantly. I don't mind that at all. It's a good feeling to be appreciated. You do that with everybody who volunteers and works here. You guys are an amazing team. Everybody appreciates that very much. The commitment that you have and the passion that you have shows.

Jess, I have a question for you on that note. Is your head going to fit through your office door?

No. I was taking it back and letting that sink in. I'm so glad I'm recording so we can listen to it all the time.

It'll be my ringtone. It's the only reason I'm going to have noise on my phone. It's going to be Rich being like, "I appreciate you. You're great. You're a great team."

 

"It's a good feeling to be appreciated."

 

If you have a bad day, we can re-listen to that. What do you do when you're not volunteering? What's the fun part of your life?

I keep very busy. I'm a musician so I play music a lot. That gives me a lot of pleasure. I manage various businesses that keep me busy.

Do you travel?

I travel a lot.

You're always somewhere.

It's funny because when I think about what I do, I don't have an answer for that sometimes but I am always on the go so I must be doing something.

I feel that. I feel like 95% of the time, we're always like, "Is Rich in the area? Do we know if he's around?"

That's what makes it fun. It keeps you busy and out of trouble.

I never make any plans if Wings N' Wheels is coming up or the gala. I want to be around if you need me.

That's because Hank would find you and put you on first prize.

Jokes on you, we know where you live.

Shout out to Hank. He's an amazing person to work with. He taught me a lot. The stuff I've learned from these people is incredible.

We have to have Hank on because he's one of those people that if you give him a problem, he can fix it. If he can't fix it at that moment, he goes home to think about it and then comes back with a solution.

It’s within twenty minutes. He's the best. He doesn't even consider it a problem. He sits there, tilts his head, and goes, "Let me go work on that." He then walks away and you're like, "See you later."

We have to have Hank on. Right before Wings N' Wheels, he was in the office for something. We asked him what he would think if Maddy was dating someone with a face tattoo. I don't know what Hank is to us. He's our leader and we look up to him for everything. He very politely looked at us, shook his head, and said he'd be disappointed.

I was like, "That's a good thing that I'm not dating anybody with a face tattoo." With that being said, if you're reading and you have a face tattoo, I'm unavailable for Hank's reasons.

 

TTAFE - DFY 26 | Volunteering

Volunteering: If you do have the time or the energy to volunteer, look for something that speaks to you. You will get so much more out of life by giving back.

 

What is one final thought you would want to leave our audience with?

I already covered the volunteering part and how to get involved. I'd reiterate that if you do have the energy and the time to volunteer, look for something that speaks to you as I did here. You'll get so much more out of life by giving back. If you're lucky enough to give back, which most of us are, I can't even describe it. When you work on something like Wings N' Wheels, you're doing it for a reason. You're doing it for the donations and Angel Flight. When that goes off and the next day you wake up, you've had a successful event, it's made a lot of money for the organization, and you're tired, it is a great feeling. I would encourage everybody to have that feeling or try to get that feeling in their lives.

If anybody's reading and interested in volunteering for us, please give us a call. You can come to hang out with us every day in this amazing pink office.

 

TTAFE - DFY 26 | Volunteering

 

I need to take my background off so everybody knows the differences in who we are. Welcome to the different personalities. It's so nice and cozy in here. I even have a blanket.

We balance each other out. That's how it works.

Yin and yang.

Do you get work done as well?

We do, most of the time. It depends on when you ask, but yeah.

Rich, thank you so much for being our first-ground volunteer. We're so appreciative of what you do. We hope you'll stay with us forever or else we'll have to come across the street and find you.

Thanks very much.

 

Important Link

 

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