By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
In March of 2009, three Liberal citizens saw a need within their community and surrounding area. Jane Eisenhauer, Tracy Gutierrez and Annette Wilson didn’t just sit back and watch the needs of their neighbors increase – they formed Southwest Miracles and met those needs with the help of volunteers and fundraisers.
Southwest Miracles’ motto is “Helping those in need, while asking nothing in return.” Their goal is to help friends and neighbors throughout the high plains area going through a medical crisis. The help they provide differs with each individual case.
“We have paid for motel expenses, given gas cards, we have had medical equipment donated to us – wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, beds,” Eisenhauer said. “Tracy has built some wheelchair ramps and handrails for people.”
“When a medical condition comes up, it’s a crisis, so we thought we could help someone not have to go through the financial burdens,” Gutierrez added. “Sometimes all someone needs is just a little help.”
What makes Southwest Miracles an absolute miracle to those they are helping is the lack of bureaucracy in the process of seeking help.
“There’s not any red tape,” Eisenhauer said. “When we get a call, the three of us get together and we decide right away what we can do.”
Eisenhauer said Southwest Miracles has began to get off the ground recently as a non-profit organization.
“Gradually we are getting our finances built up,” she said. “We are incorporated with the state, we are registered as a non-profit organization, we have by laws, we follow all the rules just like any other non-profit organization. Hopefully in the next few months, we can start applying for some grants. Everything we have got so far has been from our fundraisers.”
There are two fundraisers orchestrated by Southwest Miracles and although they do accept donations, donations are something they simply will not ask for.
“We don’t solicit money,” Gutierrez said. “We do the Spring Swing Fling and we do the car show in May.
“This was our second year for the big dinner and dance,” he explained. “It was wonderful, there were so many people there. It’s a social event. People just come out to visit. People realize that if they give a dollar, the dollar they give may end up going to their next door neighbor.”
The fundraisers have been very successful for Southwest Miracles, and they have been able to help many people throughout the community. However, a rule Eisenhauer, Gutierrez and Wilson have adhered to is they do not give out cash. They have found that there are many other ways to help those who find themselves in a medical crisis.
“We have a share closet that has scooters, wheelchairs, crutches, hospital beds, walkers,” Eisenhauer said. “Like Annette said the other day on the radio, we have a share closet, but we would love to have a closet to put it in because we have no where to store it. Tracy has stuff in his garage, Annette has stuff in her garage and I have stuff at my house. That is the main thing we are needing right now, something that is easily accessible.
“Sometimes it’s not financial help,” she continued. “Just calling someone can help. If I can put a smile on one person’s face, that makes me feel good. We have helped with rent and utility bills.”
Eisenhauer added if Southwest Miracles does not have the resources to meet a particular need, they will find an organization that can help.
Southwest Miracles is always in need of volunteers to help with specific tasks.
“We compile a volunteer list,” Gutierrez said. “So if people want to volunteer, we will write them down. We may paint someone’s house and mow the grass. Someone may not want to do anything else, but they will mow the grass.”
The goal of those that founded Southwest Miracles is to keep all funds in the area. So far, that is exactly what they have done.
Southwest Miracles was founded to help those in need, not to draw attention to themselves, Eisenhauer said.
“We don’t want recognition for what we are doing,” she said. “I don’t need a pat on the back. I do it because this is where my heart’s at.”
Eisenhauer also stressed that those who receive help from Southwest Miracles are not to be concerned with paying back anything.
“We have had people that we have helped want to repay us,” she said. “We don’t want to be repaid, they can come help us as a volunteer. But, we don’t expect a pay back. You never know if you might be in that position one day and need help.”
Annette Wilson, along with her partners, truly feel like they are doing good things and want to continue their work of meeting needs within the community. She added there have been many people step up to help in special ways to keep Southwest Miracles going strong.
“It has been the right thing to do,” Wilson said. “I feel like what we are doing is pretty important. We are addressing a need in our community that hasn’t been addressed before in the way that we are trying to do. It has become a lot bigger than we expected. We have found there ar a lot of really great people in the community that are willing to help in a lot of ways that you would never expect.”
Anyone wishing to contact Southwest Miracles can call 626-5035, any mailings may be sent to P.O. Box 1876, Liberal, KS 67901.
Gutierrez summed up what Southwest Miracles is all about in just a few simple words that speak volumes.
“It’s a really simple concept – it’s neighbors helping neighbors,” he said with a smile.