By Connie Pool, F140306, National President
As FMCA members, we take pride in being an extended family and having concern for each other. When a member is in need, there are always others ready to step forward and render assistance. On February 11, FMCA members demonstrated just how far we are willing to go to help.
You may have read the alert regarding a missing FMCA-member couple on the FMCA Web site, or possibly you received the e-mail blast about it. Still, I believe the vast majority of our readers are unaware of what happened, so it is worth recounting. We all learned from the experience. More importantly, I believe we’ve found a new member benefit we had not previously identified.
Wednesday evening, February 11, I received an e-mail from Allen Rein, FMCA’s Rocky Mountain Area vice president. Allen was forwarding to all members of the Executive Board an e-mail he had just received from Glen Erickson, F260821, president of the Smokey Bear chapter, who readdressed an e-mail he had just received from Kim Corrigall, F402623, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The Corrigalls, who are close friends with Jim and Gail Ellis, F380188, had lost all contact with the Ellises, who had been traveling around south Texas and were headed to Arizona to visit state parks. It had been 10 days since the Corrigalls or any of their other friends had heard from the Ellises, and they were becoming increasingly concerned for the couple’s safety. It was uncharacteristic for Jim and Gail not to call or respond to e-mails. Calls to the Ellises’ two cell phones were met with “no longer in service” for one phone, and the other was not responding at all. Knowing the Ellises’ travel plans, the Corrigalls and other members of their group had tried calling places where they might have stopped.
When all attempts failed to locate the missing couple, Kim Corrigall went to FMCA’s Web site, FMCA.com, and selected chapters that were located in the area where Jim and Gail were traveling. He sent an e-mail to contact people in about 20 chapters, the Smokey Bear chapter being one of them, hoping maybe someone might have seen Jim and Gail. Kim’s e-mail included pictures of the Ellises and their motorhome, along with the license plate to help in locating them.
When I hear someone hasn’t responded to phone calls or e-mails over a period of time, I immediately become concerned. Having traveled many of the back roads in south Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, I know there are many stretches of road that are long and desolate. If something had happened, it could be days before anyone would know. Therefore, I thought we needed to get the information out to as many of our members as we could and start looking for the Ellises as quickly as possible.
I sent an e-mail to Don Eversmann, FMCA’s executive director, asking for an e-mail blast to be sent to FMCA members as soon as possible. The blast went out Thursday, February 12. Within a few hours, Dave and Donna Moore, F149955, had phoned FMCA to report they had seen Jim and Gail at a park they had visited a few days earlier. Kim Corrigall contacted the park and learned the Ellises were still there. On Friday, February 13, another e-mail blast was sent to let everyone know the Ellises had been found and they were safe.
It took less than 24 hours from the time the original plea for help was sent by the Corrigalls until we located the Ellises. It is really amazing how quickly the whole process worked and how successful the outcome was.
The Ellises did not realize their friends were worried. They had sent an e-mail before leaving San Antonio, Texas, informing everyone they would be without e-mail for the next few weeks. One of their phones was strictly for use in their home area of Alberta, so it was turned off. As far as they knew, their second cell phone worked.
Apparently, for some reason, no one received the e-mail they sent. The situation was compounded when Jim and Gail tried to make a call and their cell phone would connect to the local carrier but wouldn’t complete the call. They eventually learned that the phone company had discontinued the service because somebody had been using it fraudulently. It appears that their cell phone had been pirated (or “cloned”) while they were in Mexico for a few days in January 2009, and their number was being used to make calls that showed up on their account. The cell phone carrier saw a high number of calls from Mexico and discontinued the service, but the Ellises weren’t aware of this right away.
The interesting story doesn’t stop there. Just before I was notified by the Corrigalls on Thursday evening that the Ellises had been located, I received an e-mail from John R. Wheeler, F385314, former president of the Special Military Active-Retired Travel (S.M.A.R.T.) Club (smartrving.net). He wanted to verify the missing person situation and offered to e-mail people in his club so they could assist in the search for the Ellises.
The day after an e-mail blast notified FMCA members of our success in locating the Ellises, I received a suggestion from Gary Doolittle, F368139, that maybe FMCA should lead an effort to establish a program for an RV community Missing Member Alert. The program would coordinate the efforts of other RV organizations (such as S.M.A.R.T., Escapees, Good Sam, etc.) so we could have contact with an even greater number of RVers out on the road. The Executive Board will be reviewing this suggestion for coordinating the establishment of such a network.
A few days later I received another e-mail, this one from Ron Jack, F178240, letting me know that someone had contacted the Los Angeles Sheriff Deputies Retired Organization (lasdretired.org) regarding the Ellises. This organization has a membership of more than 2,800 former Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs who are always willing to be helpful. Ron was in Hemet, California, near the Golden Village Palms RV Park, which hosts a great number of Canadians every year. Ron had visited the RV park and asked them to check their list of former, present, and future reservations to see whether the missing couple was registered. He recommended we keep this organization in mind if an incident of this nature occurred again. You would think the story ends there, but it doesn’t. I just learned Mark Adamson from Flying J, our commercial member C5789, forwarded the FMCA e-mail blast to all Flying J locations and alerted them to be on the lookout for the Ellises. There is no doubt we will continue to hear of more assistance rendered during the search.
The success of our first “Missing Member Alert” is based on the fact that many FMCA members use e-mail or visit the FMCA Web site and they take action. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with the response, and the far-reaching tentacles that connect FMCA to like organizations. I am also extremely proud how all the different organizations rallied to the cause. Then again, I shouldn’t have been surprised, because we are all pretty much the same; we are just individuals all enjoying the same lifestyle. Again, I want to thank everyone for all their help and assistance in bringing this event to a successful conclusion. It was definitely a job well done.
Until next month, may all your travels be safe and trouble-free.