Susan Worline thinks of the best ideas while she’s relaxing in her hot tub. Her most novel one started with a Facebook post by her cousin Jay, offering a free Southwest Airlines ticket to anyone who wanted it, and ended up with Worline founding a not-for-profit organization to pay airfare for families in crisis situations who can’t afford it.
Worline, a wife and mother of three children, worked for a hospice company and saw many patients die alone because their families couldn’t afford to fly. She says bereavement fares stopped about six years ago. After that serendipitous Facebook post, Worline suggested her cousin donate the tickets to a local hospice. He did and a 21-year-old girl was able to visit her dying grandmother.
Worline says, “I got to thinking, ‘Why couldn’t I start my own not-for-profit and help anyone in a crisis situation get to their loved ones immediately?’”
She answered her own question in August of 2012 when she launched Flying for Hope in Batavia. The nonprofit has arranged and paid airfare, as well as bus and train travel for those afraid to fly, for more than 20 strangers, mostly relatives headed to funerals or to see family members who are undergoing surgery.
Worline and her team of volunteers—her husband Timothy is treasurer—rely on donations: cash, frequent flier miles and American Express points. They also raise money by hosting an annual golf outing and a gala, and by collecting used shoes for Funds2orgs.com, a nonprofit that delivers them to children in Third World countries. Worline says Flying for Hope receives 40 cents per pound of shoes and has already collected enough to pay for a flight or two.
In the two years since its inception, the nonprofit has raised $17,000, spent $16,000 on flights, and used the rest for website maintenance. Worline does extensive background and financial checks on potential travelers to weed out con artists looking to score a free ride. Even so, the process is quick. She can have a client on a flight within hours of them contacting her. That was the case for Mary Martin of Colorado.
“If it wasn’t for [Worline], my sister and I wouldn’t have made it to our father’s funeral, and we would not have been able to be there for our other four sisters,” says Martin, who keeps her ticket stub as a reminder of her first time flying, and the kindness of a stranger.
For more information or to donate, visit www.flying4hope.com.
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