OLean, NY -- Gail Olson often found herself gazing into the skies as the orange Mercy Flight helicopters passed above.

That sense of wonder, coupled with the desire to give back and support the community, led to her establishing the Jim and Gail Olson Mercy Flight Fund at the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation in 2013.

“I reached a certain age and started thinking about organizations to support, and I kept thinking about the people that those Mercy Flight helicopters were helping,” Ms. Olson said.

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Since its establishment in 2013, the fund has made possible over $3,000 in grants to Mercy Flight of Western New York. The grants are designated to help with any needs at the Olean hangar.

Ms. Olson established the endowment to support Mercy Flight in perpetuity throughout the life of the fund.

“Our Olean Hangar underwent some fairly extensive renovations in 2016 to continue to upgrade service and improve our crew’s working conditions,” said Amy Starck, Mercy Flight vice president of marketing and development. “A few items are still in process. The Olson Fund donations have helped to defray the costs of that project.”

Ms. Starck added that nonprofit emergency transport services similar to Mercy Flight have closed across the country, leading to dramatically higher costs and worse service for patients.

Mercy Flight helicopters can respond to emergency calls anywhere within about a 25-minute flight radius, which covers most of Western New York, said ­­Maria Stenzel, a flight nurse at the Olean base.

Pilots and nurses are prepared to be in the air within five to eight minutes after a call, she added.

Ms. Starck said that the support of donors like Ms. Olson is essential to upholding that quality service.

“It is the absolute truth to say that Mercy Flight could only operate the way it does thanks to its incredibly generous supporters,” said Ms. Starck. “The big heart of our community allows us to always put compassionate patient care first, as it should be in all aspects of healthcare.”

“I do not have a personal story where I was helped by Mercy Flight,” said Ms. Olson. “But for me it is all about spreading the word, because I am so grateful, and I feel safer for them being here.”

“The amazing thing about Ms. Olson’s story is that she never needed the services of Mercy Flight,” said CRCF Executive Director Karen Niemic Buchheit. “But she saw the need and let her genuine curiosity blossom into a passion.”

“We need more people like her who let their interests develop into a real passion for doing and growing good in the community.”

Donations can be made to the Jim and Gail Olson Mercy Flight Fund at CRCF, 301 N. Union St., Suite 203, or online at cattfoundation.org.

Established in 1994, the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation is growing good by connecting donors to the causes they care about most in the region. Grants from the foundation support many areas, including education, scholarships, health care, the arts, community development, human service, and youth development. To learn more, call (716) 301-CRCF (2723), email foundation@cattfoundation.org, or visit online at www.cattfoundation.org. CRCF is also on Facebook (facebook.com/cattfoundation) and Twitter (@CattFoundation).