I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends – Inside the NGL/LPG Community

Today’s blog is something different.  It is a special feature covering a unique aspect of the NGL/LPG industry, known as the LPG Charity Fund.  The organization is an integral part of this community, due both to its good works and its widely attended extracurricular events.  In posting this blog we are not asking for contributions, volunteers or anything else.   Instead, we just think it is important – when you are trying to understand an industry – that you know something about the people involved and how the market really connects.  Today we talk about this important dimension of the NGL/LPG community.

If you’ve been following our NGL blogs, by now you know that the NGL/LPG industry is made up of a strong fraternity of energy players. We’ve described them as smart, resourceful risk takers with high expectations, who have paid their dues to succeed in this confusing and very cyclical business. They are also relationship people. They have learned that the only way to succeed in this fickle business is to genuinely live by the Golden Rule and to build trusting relationships.  If they don’t, it’s not long before they are no longer around. This is a community of people who are loyal to those who work their way into their inner circle and most important, they have heart.  The LPG Charity Fund is a true testament to who and what they are.

The LPG Charity Fund (LPG Fund) is a 501(c)3 that was started in 1992 by five NGL friends and  colleagues: Martha Doolin, Lou Oakman, Bill Ray and the late Jim Benedict and Sheila Ross. One of their mutual friends in the business was faced with serious heart problems and the massive medical bills that go along with it.  He had no insurance. This group decided they’d help him in any way they could. They also knew life isn’t always fair and is full of surprises and there would be others with similar needs. This was the start of the LPG Charity Fund. Their purpose was and still is simply “to help members of the LPG and gas processing industry during time of catastrophic medical expenses and/or financial need.”  They have done just that and made an impact on countless people.


What exactly is the LPG Charity Fund?

The LPG Fund is organized as a nonprofit 501(c)3 which is defined by the IRS as an organization that provides charitable services, does not make a profit and is exempt from federal and state income taxes. Their funding comes through tax deductible donations (from individuals and corporations) and grants (from foundations).  They can also make money through fundraisers. In the beginning, this is exactly what they did and they wasted no time. Their first event took place at the Tour 18 Golf Course shortly after it opened for business in 1992 and it netted approximately $30M. Not bad. 

By that time, the organization was formally established, a plan was finalized and a Board was in place.  Over the years, committees and sponsorships and most recently a Randall’s “Good Neighbor Sharecard Program” were also established. It’s no surprise there was no arm twisting, and to this day it’s the “who’s who” in the NGL and the petrochemical business that makes this organization work. There are 25 committed board and committee members, 67 corporate sponsors and 3-4 annual fundraisers that have become tradition for the entire NGL business. And every bit of it has been on a volunteer basis. 

You’ll also remember from past blogs that NGLers know how to make money. So as time went by, they figured out how to marry fundraising with other social events that were also near and dear to the NGL world—bowling, golf, and why not an exhilarating game of Texas Hold’em?  All three have become popular signature fundraisers for the LPG Fund.

NGLers also know how to negotiate. It’s what they do all day every day. So why not put that to work and negotiate invoices with medical providers? They also do just that when it’s appropriate and have saved families a big chunk of money.

They’ve also made it pretty simple to apply for one of their grants. It can all be done via e-mail. Once an application is received, the LPG Fund Executive Committee will assess and make a final recommendation to the entire board. If the recommendation gets majority vote, the application is approved. Today that process can be initiated by contacting Greg Harpster, President of the LPG Fund Executive Committee who encourages those in need to apply: http://www.lpgfund.com/lpg_members.php

Over $1.4MM has been raised and at least $1MM has been granted since inception in 1992. At least 97% of funds collected go to help others. Their only other expenses include legal, tax preparation, insurance and website maintenance. They have touched the lives of over 100 individuals and their families.  Every one of their stories is worth sharing, but here are a couple that best exemplify their purpose and impressive impact.


Cooper, the youngest son of one NGL family suffers from Sanfilippo Syndrome, medically known as Mucopolysaccharidosis III.   Unfortunately, it is incurable and implies an expected lifespan of only 10-15 years.  Cooper is now nine years old, is developmentally delayed, and still has many medical challenges ahead of him.  As an infant, Cooper experienced an arduous, quality of life improving, 17-month stem cell transplant procedure at Duke University in 2006 and 2007.  Cooper’s family did their best to tackle the extensive emotional and physical challenges they faced including multiple moves, unpredictable and sometimes no employment, and mounting medical bills.   

Cooper’s family had incredible support from family, friends, employers, and even the insurance companies.  The LPG Community held two fundraisers to help with expenses.  In 2007, when Cooper stabilized, his father was able to rejoin the workforce.  Cooper’s father landed a great job with Inergy.  In fact, Inergy generously delayed his start time to ensure that the family’s needs were met first.  

Cooper in his new Rifton Chair

Extraordinary expenses continue and at the urging of the LPG Community, Cooper’s father requested and was granted help from the LPG Charity Fund in 2011.  Cooper now has a new feeding chair (in picture above), a special needs car seat, and the home modifications he needed.  Cooper continues to be happy, loves school, and most enjoys his two older (and very protective) brothers, Connor and Cayden.

Needless to say, Cooper’s family is extremely grateful for his NGL friends and family.


Nancy’s husband is and has been in the NGL business and a supporter of the LPG Fund for many years. Little did they know, they would also be embraced by the LPG Fund.  Nancy has polycystic disease and has experienced many years of related health challenges. She had first signs of kidney failure in 1997 and had a kidney transplant in 2000. Unfortunately, by 2007 she began having problems again, lapsed into a coma and not only did her kidney need to be replaced again, but so did her liver. This triggered a yearlong stay in St Luke’s Hospital in Houston. Nine months of that year was spent in ICU waiting on donor organs and then came surgery, and a long grueling and emotional recuperation process. Nancy had around the clock support from her husband and two sons. But even with insurance, the expenses were astronomical and bills still come in on a regular basis. In fact, the medication essential to help her body accept the transplants alone can cost thousands of dollars each month. On top of that, work wasn’t always certain for Nancy’s husband, an NGL industry consultant, because of the commitment this kind of medical experience demands.

Since her husband and his friends in the NGL business were well aware of the LPG Fund, it was easy to make that first grant request during Nancy’s initial diagnosis. They have been there for Nancy and her family ever since. The LPG Fund organization and their supporters are just as excited about that as Nancy and her family.    

Things are going well for Nancy and her family and they attribute much of that to the fact that the LPG Fund has been there for them since her diagnosis many years ago. Nancy is so thankful she is alive today and quickly points out that the financial peace of mind and genuine friendship the fund organization has provided has gotten them through. Without that it would have been extremely difficult to achieve what she has.     

Next Fundraiser

The next LPG Fund fundraiser is their annual bowling tournament, May 9 at the AMF Willow Bowl in Houston. We can assure you fun will be had by all.  If you want to know more about the fund, see the links below: 

Website:            http://www.lpgfund.com/

Donations:        http://www.lpgfund.com/Donate-644B.php

Bowling:            http://www.lpgfund.com/Event_Register-244B.php

Tom Garner

One last word.  Long-time NGL trader Tom Garner passed away suddenly on Monday, March 4, 2013. Tom, 65, was one of the founders of Vanguard Petroleum Corp, which traded NGL between 1975 and 2012.  Nearly everyone I spoke to about this blog mentioned the exceptional leadership and heart that Tom Garner provided not only the LPG Fund, but the NGL industry itself.  Like most of the Board members, Tom did what needed to be done.  Technically, he was part of the Executive Committee acting as Vice President of the LPG Fund. He also led the Aid Committee and was the main contact for potential funding recipients.

Nancy commented that she felt Tom was her biggest supporter and he was as excited about her grant approvals over the years as she and her family were. She said “Tom would call me personally and I remember last Christmas specifically when he called to let us know we were approved and he was so enthused about the good news.”    Tom made his mark and he will be missed by all in the industry and everyone touched by the LPG Charity Fund.

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