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Foothills Pilots Serve: Friendship And Service Fuel This Group Of Women

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Foothills Pilot Club members are (left to right, front to back) Laura Giles, Maria Orlova (visiting with Laura from studying ballet in Denver. She is a native of Russia) Shirley Glover, Cheryl Rice, Janet Jolly, Jackie Hampton, Catherine Washburn, Martha

The local Foothills Pilot Club of North Carolina is an exciting and committed group of women.

"Friendship and service" are the bywords of Pilot and they were two words most often mentioned by the club members at its March meeting.

Many of the members had just come from playing bingo at Life Care, an adult day care in Rutherfordton. They talked about the smiles on the faces of the Life Care clients and the fun they had playing bingo.

"I've met women here I never would have known any other way," Catherine Washburn said of the 20-member club that meets monthly at Forest City's Wesleyan Church next to Hardin's Drug. "And the meals aren't bad; and I didn't have to cook them."

The club's focus is people with brain injuries or other physical and/or mental challenges.

Laura Giles, the club's president-elect, has a particular passion for that kind of work as her sister has had seven brain surgeries and has 57 metal clips in her brain.

"This began for her during a time when brain surgery was almost unheard of. She overcame it all to finish college, teach school, and raise a wonderful family," Giles said.

The club's president, Jackie Hampton, said she particularly enjoys the friendship with the club's members and feels grateful to be able to work with, "The people we help."

Among those helped are unpaid caregivers. As government and medical insurance programs rarely pay for 24/7 home health care, the work of caregiving often falls to unpaid home caregivers.

When the club meets on April 8, they will honor these caregivers as their guests for lunch. In some cases the caregivers will not only enjoy lunch, but will be able to hire someone to cover for them during the lunch and the club will pay for that coverage.

This Pilot Club (there is another club in the county) also sponsors the Anchor Club at Chase High School. Anchor is the high school version of Pilot.

Both Pam Carpenter and Janet Jolly are former special needs teachers and the community service is a smooth transition for them in retirement.

Shirley Glover called the club her family.

The club sponsors the Penny P. Davis Memorial Scholarship to some deserving high school senior each year. The scholarship does not necessarily go to a senior considering work in the service or health care field, but that is a preference.

The scholarship and Anchor of the Year award will be presented at the club's May meeting.

Cheryl Rice said she's in it for the friendship.

Pilot International, with tens of thousands of members, has a code of ethics which is read at each meeting.

Club members resolve "to be ambitious to succeed, but always be ethical, desiring nothing that is not achieved by justice, honesty, and fairness."

The members also resolve "to be honest and generous."

That generosity will be particularly evident on April 8 when they host the unpaid caregivers, one of the most thankless jobs born by family members of those requiring in-home health care.

The club also sponsors what it calls a "Princess Ball," and it has for the past six years.

"We hear so much these days about broken families; and we all remember special events like weddings when we got to dance with our fathers," Giles said. "This is a really popular event, which will be held on August 1 this year at the Scout Hut in Rutherfordton. You ought to see how we decorate that place. Last year we even had an instructor come who taught ballroom dancing. The young folks caught on really quickly, but the older ones were a little slower."

The cost of the Princess Ball is $25 per couple and the funds go to support the club's activities around brain health. The event is open to fathers, grandfathers, "even moms' boyfriends," Giles said. The event has proved very popular and many come back year after year.

Zana Whitmire provided the inspirational reading for the meeting and told the group they were all such "nice people," they really didn't need inspiring, but she did encourage them to try "just ten minutes," of meditation. She jokingly said there would be a test.

Brain research has proven that meditation is beneficial to both mental and physical health and contributes to longevity.

Linda Hardin with the help of 14-year-old homeschooler Faith Yelton fixed lunch. Hardin said she has been feeding the club for years.

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