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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Group quietly helping those in need

  • Maybe you've heard of them. Maybe you haven't.
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     — Maybe you've heard of them. Maybe you haven't.
    "We have been working quietly over the years. We want to focus on missions," said Stuart Hirsch, mission commander of the Archangel Airborne, a group of volunteers who are helping people around the world.
    Though the formal group wasn't formed until 2012, Hirsch said the roots run much deeper.
    It was in the early 1990s when Hirsch said he had a goal of working in underserved areas of the world. Back then, a group of people went to northern Haiti and saw the conditions in which the people were living.
    It was then he realized that aviation resources could be used to access such areas. The focus was working with medical professionals in those regions to "strengthen their work."
    "These are very challenged areas," he said.
    Hirsch has a strong aviation background and has completed his professional flight ratings. He went back to his hometown of Monticello, N.Y., and began working from the airport. It's right next to where he grew up and he had always been around aviation thanks to his family.
    There, they had a flight school and a maintenance base.
    He then began networking with medical professionals and formed Archangel Airborne.
    The first signature event for the team came in 2010 when the devastating earthquake struck Haiti.
    The launched "Operation Haitian Alliance" in the wake of that earthquake. Its mission was to improve health care and training for the people whose lives were changed forever.
    Just a year ago, the team turned its focus domestically when Superstorm Sandy struck the Jersey shore, devastating that area.
    Page 2 of 4 - Hirsch said the team was able to identify one airport near Point Pleasant where they could fly in and help.
    "We flew in tons of materials," he said.
    Hirsch, who has been in some very dire regions around the globe, said he was astonished at the devastation in New Jersey.
    "It was strange to see that in America," he said.
     
    Coming to Honesdale
    One of the more interesting parts of the group is the fact it is based at the Cherry Ridge Airport in Honesdale.
    Some might it an odd place for a group focusing on problems worldwide, but not Hirsch.
    In fact, he sees it as an advantage.
    The road to Honesdale began when the airport in Monticello was closed and converted into a racetrack.
    But the road was also thanks to Thomas Lovelace, founder of TML Aircraft, which is based at the Cherry Ridge Airport.
    Lovelace formed his operation in 2003 at the airport and then built the infrastructure to support the business. This "total maintenance facility" was the perfect location to base Archangel Airborne.
    Lovelace is the executive vice president of the group and he makes sure all missions are 100 percent ready to go through maintenance and preparedness.
    This past Saturday, a community outreach was conducted by the group and featured a wide variety of information and activities.
    Page 3 of 4 - "We decided to have an outreach," said Hirsch.
    That outreach included many of the people and groups which makes Archangel Airborne a success. From fire departments to helicopter medical evacuation units to EMS, it takes all of them to make it work, he said.
    All were on display Saturday at the airport, as well as a flight simulator, classic airplanes, classic cars and much more.
    Though the group has worked quietly over the past few years, Hirsch said the local residents have been very supportive.
    "The interest and support of the local people has been so strong," said Hirsch.
     
    Moving forward
    Hirsch said the group used the Haiti mission as "proving ground" to see how it would all work.
    From there, he said they can use that as a "model we can transpose to different areas."
    Plans are in the works to do missions in northeastern Nicaragua and some "challenged" parts of Mexico.
    "There is always a lot of need," said Hirsch.
    In fact, that great need is one of the core reasons the group operates, he said.
    Hirsch said the "root of all conflict" in the world is poverty and they hope to help change that in various locations.
    By improving access to medical needs, he said that is a major step toward helping curb poverty.
    Page 4 of 4 - Hirsch also thinks the outreach has a psychological component.
    "I firmly believe we are ambassadors," he said. "We wear the American flag when we are working."
    He said "98 percent of the time" they have been welcomed by the people where they are working.
    One of the big focuses is working the the professionals in those regions. Hirsch thinks that is vital. He said by forming those relationships, they are transforming the regions permanently by having in place trained people who will always be working with those in need.
    The group has more lofty goals, as well.
    One of those is helping to provide medical care to people in war zones. Hirsch said there are many such areas around the world and they intend to reach out and help.
    In fact, he said the group wants to continue to expand and grow to help more and more people.
    "What we intend to do is keeping doing this," he said.
    You can learn more about the group by visiting archangelairborne.org or their Facebook page.

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