Dennis Combs, founder and owner of local Combs Car Corral dealerships, usually uses another form of transportation when he takes off to help others. Combs is also a pilot and, like the fictional do-gooder Superman, he takes to the skies to make a difference.
“I decided I wanted to put my airplane to use and do some good,” said Combs. And so far, since 2005, he said he has piloted about 30 “Angel Flight” missions that hone in on medical assistance and community service. He’s been to Guatemala five times, Mexico twice. Cuba, Alaska, Peru, Puerto Rico and more.
“I took toys and soccer balls, shoes and food to Guatemala,” he said. There was an orphanage there and the children had “ends and pieces of two-by-fours to play with and … it just killed me,” Combs said. “I loaded up the plane and took all these toys. It was such a joy. It’s such a joy to give. That sounds cliche … but it makes you feel good.”
He also helped build a playground, installed solar panels and “in the Amazon, the villages needed shoes and doctors. I brought them shoes, two dentists, two doctors, hundreds of pounds of medicine. … We were working on people fixing their teeth. … It was the whole thing,” said Combs.
He once took 100 coats to a school in Alaska, where they displayed thank-yous in their tradition. “One of the greatest joys I’ve had was when we gathered at the school and a circle of kids grabbed me and threw me in the air three times,” Combs said. “It was the coolest thing.”
He’s done a number of missions state-side, too. For one Make-A-Wish recipient, he finagled a face-to-face meeting in California with Gene Simmons from the rock group KISS. He’s helped out with several dog rescues, too — one, a police dog in Maine, and the other was for a veteran in Caldwell.
Most recently, though, Combs has been making contrails in the sky to help with the pandemic. In recent weeks, he delivered test kits to Seattle and Idaho Falls, and on April 28, flew to Scottsdale, Arizona, to pick up hundreds of U.S. flag-inspired medical masks.
Why does he do it?
“I guess I’ve been a car dealer since I was around 15,” Combs said. “Had the opportunity to do a lot of things through my luck of success.” And when he “had a few extra dollars” from a real estate development deal, “I wanted to start doing more for others instead of myself.”
And since he started on that journey, he hasn’t stopped.
“I hustle to try to sell a bunch of cars every year so I can go on two to three missions a year,” Combs said. “It makes you feel great.”
More nurses hear the call
Last week, I talked with Amber Craig, an ER nurse at West Valley Medical Center, who is doing a stint on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic at a hospital in the Bronx.
Readers let me know she is not the only one. Maj. Audrea (AW-dray) Bentley from Meridian and Robyn Bailey of Nampa are two others who have heeded the call to help.
Maj. Bentley, an air ambulance nurse with the U.S. Air Force Reserves is also at a hospital in the Bronx, said her mother and father. “We’re proud of her,” said Dale Sharp. “We were concerned … but she said to my wife, ‘Mom, that’s my job — fighting for the safety of those people.’”
Bailey is nursing lab coordinator and a clinical instructor at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa — and also a graduate of NNU. “I became a nurse to help those in need,” she said. “… Although I felt crazy stepping forward, I am where I’m supposed to be — and it was no mistake.”