You wouldn’t think a group called Stumps R Us has anything in common with the Air Care Alliance or a show for school kids telling the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to earn her pilot’s license.
But each of these is one of the 170 winners of grants from the Wolf Aviation Fund, created to help general aviation grow.
“We like to support the little guy,” says Rol Murrow, executive director of the fund. “We really like to find the person who is out in the middle of nowhere and help develop their support base. We want to stimulate and inspire people.”
Dan Sorkin is one of those inspired people. The founder of Stumps R Us, which he describes as a “whimsical amputee sports group,” Sorkin used a small grant from the Wolf Aviation Fund to give new amputees an hour of flight instruction. That hour is part of the perks of membership in the support group (Stumps.org.)
Sorkin, an instrument flight instructor who has been flying since 1950, has flown four or five amputees from his home base at Buchanan Field in Concord, Calif., with help from the grant. Altogether, though, he’s taken up about 20 amputees over the years in his Cessna 182, which has not been specially modified for amputees.
“I wanted to demonstrate that just because you’re an amputee doesn’t mean you can’t fly an airplane,” he says. “You should see the change in attitude in some of the people. It is just dramatic when they see that they really can fly a plane.”
Sorkin’s grant is typical of a Wolf Aviation Fund grant. When the fund was first created in the early 1990s by the estate of Alfred and Connie Wolf — Alfred, known as Abby, was one of the five founders of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association — the fund gave just one $10,000 grant a year. After a few years, the philosophy changed so that many proposals share in each year’s available money, which ranges from $60,000 to $180,000.
“Our focus is on small grants,” Murrow explains. “We want to encourage the grass roots — we want to kick something into being.”
Wolf grants also are used as leverage. Winners can take the news of their awards to other aviation groups, as well as local groups and businesses, to raise more money for their endeavors, according to Murrow.
“We’re heavily oriented to partial funding,” he says. “Our thought is that local projects should receive the bulk of their funding from the local aviation community. They can use our grant to prime the pump.”
In a typical year, 37 or so projects will get funded, about half of the proposals submitted.
Proposals range from Sorkin’s endeavors to introduce flight to amputees, to Sandra Campbell, a management and program analyst with the FAA, who created a one-woman show called “Follow Your Dreams,” which she presents to school children. The show is the result of years of work researching Bessie Coleman’s history and bringing it alive, so young people can become inspired to reach for greatness.
The Wolf Aviation Fund grant helped fund a videotape of the show so that Coleman’s story could reach a wider audience. An associated school curriculum for students in grades 3-8 was developed to accompany the videotape.
Other grants have funded projects ranging from research on new technology for vacuum pumps to creation of a website by Chicago-based airline pilot Sedgewick Hines, where aspiring aviators find scholarships and flight training grants (AvScholars.com).
Many of the proposals that receive funding are related to getting the good news about GA out to the public. One $500 grant to LifeLine Pilots funded a media outreach program that paid off in a big way. A woman who had just lost her husband, a long-time pilot, saw an article about the group in her local newspaper and gave $5,000 to it in his memory. She’s also become one of the group’s biggest boosters and its most loyal volunteer, according to Murrow.
“Just getting the story out can result in people getting what they need,” he says. “By making a big deal of the Wolf Aviation Fund award, others often step up to help out or at least find out about their program.”
One of Murrow’s favorite proposals was from a school superintendent, who is also an AOPA member, to develop a curriculum on “Inventing Flight,” a project celebrating the accomplishments of the Wright brothers. The $2,000 grant allowed him to develop a national curriculum, which ultimately was taken to an educational publisher who “loved it” and put $1 million into it, according to Murrow. “The little grass roots effort of one school district in Connecticut turned into a national program,” he says.
The trustees at the Wolf Aviation Fund always remember GA’s roots, which is why Sarah Brown received a grant a few years ago. Brown is a home-schooled student who was building a Dakota Hawk and learning to fly, with support from friends, family and local businesses. She asked the fund for help to tell others about her project so other home-schooled children could be inspired to take on similar projects.
WANT TO APPLY?
Many people in GA are intimidated by the idea of writing a grant proposal, according to Murrow.
“Those without experience sometimes think it takes a special skill, or that they don’t have a chance,” he says. “Most of our grants are awarded to first-timers.”
The application process is deliberately simple, with the organization asking grant seekers to send only essential information: Who you are, what you want to do, how much you want, how you will spend it and how your project fits into the Wolf Aviation Fund philosophy.
“We want it simple,” Murrow says.
Supplemental materials are refused. Proposals must be limited to four pages and fall into one of seven categories:
• Developing Public Policy and Airports;
• Networking and Mutual Support;
• Development and Alternative Resources;
• Communications, Media and Community Relations;
• General Aviation Technology, Safety and Noise;
• Outreach: Improving Public Understanding and Perception; and
• Aviation and Space Education.
The largest number of proposals fall in the aviation education category, according to Murrow, who notes that many proposals fit into several categories. He also notes that the fund often receives proposals to “save the wolf.”
“Those don’t get rated very high,” he says.
“A big mistake people make is not reading the instructions,” he says. “We consider our grant requirements a tutorial on grant writing.”
Often, writing a proposal for a Wolf Aviation Fund grant is the first step to getting support for a project. Murrow advises those seeking funds not only to apply to the Wolf Aviation Fund, but also send proposals to the local Chamber of Commerce, the local EAA chapter, even the local bank. “There are lots of place to get support,” he says.
For more information: 860 429-2972 or Wolf-Aviation.org