(I have permission from the author and her editor to reprint the entire article.)
Monday, October 30, 2006 8:53 AM CST
‘18 Wheel Angels’ Helps Spread Word On Missing
By Wanda Freeman
Like thousands of others, Laura Allen Hood and William Felter watch the road, the news and the phone for their missing loved ones — and they follow every lead that comes their way.
Felter, of Dallas, hopes a phone call he recently received from Roland will lead to his mother, Faith Van Nortrick, last confirmed to be in Sallisaw two years ago.
Hood, a Fort Smith resident, hopes a program called 18 Wheel Angels will help lead to her brother, Anthony “Tony” Allen, who disappeared 28 years ago.
Sponsored by Project Jason — a nonprofit organization founded by Kelly Jolkowski of Omaha, Neb., whose elder son disappeared at age 19 in June 2001 — 18 Wheel Angels is a volunteer program in which truck drivers and other highway travelers print off posters of a featured person and distribute the posters along their routes.
“Kelly has a missing son, Jason, and I have a missing brother, Tony. ... There’s a whole Internet community of the families of the missing,” Hood said. Hood’s brother disappeared at age 16 after leaving his mother’s Fort Smith home in October 1978. He would be 44 now.
The 18 Wheel Angels program is one of several Project Jason initiatives that connect with truck drivers and the trucking industry, Jolkowski said.
“I was looking for a program that was not expensive to run, and I would hear from truck drivers who knew about Project Jason and would call saying, ‘I put out posters of your son on my route,’” she said. Those contacts inspired her to create 18 Wheel Angels. Jolkowski said she has heard of posters showing up as far away as Alaska.
Two 18 Wheel campaigns run each month, from the first through the 15th and from the 16th through the 31st. During a given campaign, a poster containing one or more likenesses of the featured person and text providing contact information is posted on the Project Jason Web site, where volunteers may download five or more copies for distribution.
Each 18 Wheel poster is also published in Through the Gears, a trucking trade magazine published out of Alabama.
A table of statistics keeps track of posters downloaded for each person featured. A recent update of the Web page showed 337 posters downloaded for Jason Jolkowski, who was featured during Campaign 18.
Anthony Allen is featured in Campaign 56, running through the end of October. Hood said an age-progression picture depicting her brother in his mid-40s is paired with a school picture taken when he was 14. While that picture provided good information about bone structure and other characteristics used to develop the age-progression picture, she said a later photo showing Allen at 16, with longer hair and facial hair, is more accurate.
Kelly Jolkowski said another trucking-industry sponsor donates space on his Web site for the Project Jason Forum, where volunteers around the country post news about missing people.
“It’s like a case history,” Jolkowski said. “And it does become a record of the case, as well.”
A forum posting about Anthony Allen, originated in March 2005, has received several updates as news articles appear, and contains that more-accurate picture Hood described.
The forum also shows a copy of an Oct. 22 article in the Sequoyah County Times about Felter’s mother, who disappeared from her Hitchcock, Texas, home in August 2004 and was arrested several days later in Sallisaw. The article shows a color picture of Van Nortrick, whose 44th birthday passed Oct. 19 without word from her.
The forum can be accessed from the ProjectJason.org Web site or directly at http://www.truckingboards.com/trucki...project-jason/