Charity helps bring truckers home

April 3, 2018

Mark Schremmer

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For a truck driver, tragedy can strike at any moment. Whether it’s a crash, a health-related incident, or a family emergency, truck drivers are often hundreds — if not thousands — of miles away from home when it happens.

A trucker since 1981, Robert Palm knows this reality all too well.

The OOIDA member from Albuquerque, N.M., had to recover the body of his stepbrother and fellow truck driver, Joey Miller, after his death in 1995. A year later, Palm was in a serious crash of his own. In 2010, Palm suffered a ruptured appendix and was hospitalized.

Being away from home during these times can take its toll emotionally and financially.

Palm figured there had to be a way to help fellow truckers and their families when they are faced with these situations.

“The Lord spoke to me,” Palm said. “He said there’s something you have to do.”

That something was the creation of TruckersFinalMile.org. The charity, which is designed to reunite truck drivers and their families in the event of death, debilitating injury or serious illness was founded in 2013 and received its 501(c)3 status in 2014. In addition to Palm, the charity’s other board members and administrators include David Paterson, Adabelle Rodriguez, James Burlison, and Jeanine Palm.

“We want to be part of the trucking family that comes to the aid of families in need,” Palm said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”

Palm said the charity has assisted more than a hundred trucking families, including 54 with almost $58,000 in benefits paid out on their behalf in 2017.

“More people are starting to find out about us,” Palm said. “But that puts us in a Catch-22, because the more demand, the more we need to increase our donations to accommodate all of these families.”

For now, Truckers Final Mile focuses on five services.

The most common service is to bring a driver home after the loss of life. Often, this can be an expensive burden on the family.

“We’ve assisted drivers home to Brazil and to Poland,” Palm said. “If they’re here and serving in a CDL capacity and the family asks, we’ll do what we can to assist.

“We also don’t judge the cause, and we don’t judge fault. He or she needs to get home, and that’s what we focus on.”

If needed, Truckers Final Mile will also help get the driver’s personal belongings back to the family.

“There are some phenomenal companies that will bend over backward to do whatever they can to help the families of the truckers,” Palm said. “We contact every company. Some companies will say, ‘We got this.’ Others will hang up on us. We’ve had companies tell us that if their belongings aren’t picked up in 30 days, then they’re going in the dumpster.”

Other services include helping unite spouses when truck drivers are hospitalized for job-related or non-job-related medical emergencies, family emergencies, and physical therapy for incidents that force the end of a truck driver’s career, such as a loss of a limb.

Truckers Final Mile has received 27 testimonials on the wesbsite, GreatNonprofits.org.

“There is not enough good that can be said about TruckersFinalMile.org,” one testimonial said. “Because of this wonderful charity, people in this situation (loss of a loved one) can have some comfort when they really need it by knowing there is a way they can get their loved one home one last time.”

Other testimonials shared personal stories.

“On March 7, 2017, I spoke with my husband right before 9 a.m. “Right around 11 a.m., my husband was found deceased in his truck. We live in North Carolina. My husband, a long-haul driver was in Indiana at a truck stop. Shocked, confused and alone, I had no idea what to do. A friend told me about Truckers Final Mile and gave me a phone number to contact them. With the briefest of information, they took the ball and ran with it.

“My hope is that no one ever has to deal with anything such as the loss of a loved one so far away. I am thankful that groups such as this, and especially this one, is there (in case) the need arises.”

Palm said every one of these stories means something to him.

“Every one of these drivers that we’ve assisted is my brother and sister,” Palm said. “I cry with the family members. I’ve attended funerals. I’ve attended weddings with drivers’ sons, and I’ve had dinner with families. I try to continue a relationship with every one of these people. Clients have my personal cell phone and can call me 24 hours a day.”

Truckers Final File relies entirely on volunteers and donations. No one is on the payroll.

“A friend told me that I was consumed by this charity,” Palm said. “I said I would hope that when my family has to bring me home that someone is consumed with the idea of bringing me home. We’re all brothers and sisters of the highway, so we’re just helping family. That’s what we’re doing.”

For more information about the charity or to donate, go to TruckersFinalMile.org or the Facebook page. Families in need of assistance can call 888-857-7871.
OOIDA member Paul Marhoefer and his wife, Denise, wrote the song “In My Final Mile” on behalf of the charity.

TBS

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.