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Volunteer helps keep Shrine effort moving

Ernie Bach's spare time is taken up with volunteer work for the Shriners, where he shuttles children to medical care.

By CAROLYN HOPKINS

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 26, 2000


HUDSON -- Ernie Bach, 85, is a walking, talking encyclopedia of information about the Shrine hospitals.

The orthopedic unit in Tampa treats children from infancy to 18 years of age, Bach said. Under certain circumstances, the age limit may be extended.

"There is never a charge for any services," he said. Bach has been a volunteer transportation driver at the Shrine Tampa unit hospital since its opening in 1985 and has stacked up more than 3,000 volunteer hours to date. He was named Volunteer of the Year in 1995.

Three vans are specially equipped to take children from the Shrine Orthopedic Hospital in Tampa to Moffitt Cancer Center and occasionally to a dentist or for eye exams, Bach said.

"Infants and younger children are usually accompanied by a nurse or volunteer aide when it is required, or a parent," he said. "We also go to the Tampa airport and to the Greyhound bus station and to Amtrak to pick up children and their families and take them when they are returning home."

Every other day, the drivers go to the International Shrine Headquarters in Tampa on errands. Drivers who work at least four hours are eligible for a meal in the hospital cafeteria.

Bach has turned in thousands of dollars that were donated to the hospital and to the Egypt Shrine Hospital Committee from film presentations he has made over the years.

Once a year, Bach said, Shriners hold a fund drive, seeking donations outside supermarkets and other public places.

Bach began his affiliation as a Mason in June 1964 in Uniondale, N.Y.

He said Trudy, his wife of 64 years, is understanding; all of his spare time is taken up with volunteer work for the Shriners.

He is a charter member of the Gulf High Twelve Club 1583 of Port Richey-Hudson, a member of York Rite Royal Arch Chapter since 1981; a member of Egypt Shrine Temple in Tampa since 1982; member of the West Pasco Shrine Club since 1982; a member of the Order of the Amaranth in New Port Richey since 1980; is affiliated to the Eastern Star Chapter 117 of New Port Richey; and is a member of the White Shrine of Jerusalem in New Port Richey since 1993. He has been a member of Gulf Highlands Civic Association in Port Richey for 20 years and is on the board of directors.

This summer the Bachs traveled 4,000 miles by car in the northeastern United States and visited their daughter, Carole Ann Kelly, and their five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren in the Hamilton, N.Y., area. Their son, Ernie, lives in Largo and is active in politics.

Before retiring in 1979 and moving to Port Richey, Bach was general manager for Red Ball Moving Lines in New York City and before that was warehouse manager for Greyhound Moving and Storage out of New York City.

Bach will talk about Shriners Hospitals to clubs, organizations, civic associations and church groups. For information, call (727) 862-9992.

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