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This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features Greg Harpster of the LPG Charity Fund talking to Pipeliners Podcast host Russel Treat about how the charity supports oil and gas professionals during time of need.

In this episode, you will learn about the LPG Charity Fund, the LPG industry, and the impact the LPG Charity Fund has made on the oil and gas community.

LPG Charity Fund: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms

  • Greg Harpster is on the Board of the LPG Charity Fund. Find and connect with Greg on LinkedIn. Alternatively, call Greg at 346-221-5786 or email gharpster@sbcglobal.net.
  • The LPG Charity Fund assists members of the LPG and Gas Processing industry during a time of catastrophic medical expenses and/or financial need.
  • LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) fuel is also known as propane or butane.
  • NGL (Natural Gas Liquids) is natural gas that has been cooled down to liquid form for ease and safety of non-pressurized storage or transport.
  • 501c3 organization is a corporation, trust, unincorporated association, or other type of organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States Code.

LPG Charity Fund: Full Episode Transcript

Russel Treat:  Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 100, sponsored by EnerSys Corporation, provider of POEMS, the Pipeline Operations Excellence Management System, SCADA compliance, and operations software for the pipeline control center. Find out more about POEMS at enersyscorp.com.

[music]

Announcer:  The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now, your host, Russel Treat.

Russel:  Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time and to show that appreciation, we are giving away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener each episode.

This week, our winner is Cindy Charron with Wolverine Pipe Line Company. Congratulations, your YETI is on its way. To learn how you can win this signature prize pack, stick around until the end of the episode.

Before we introduce this week’s guest, I want to take a moment. I just want to say thank you. This is a milestone for me. 100 episodes. That’s nearly two years of weekly podcasts. There have been many days when I wondered how I was going to get the episode for the upcoming week. Although it remains challenging, it also remains very rewarding.

I’m very grateful for the listeners. I’m very grateful for the team that supports me in this endeavor.

Mostly, I’m grateful for the feedback I get from the listeners about how this podcast is listened to and how people are using it to support training and onboarding and orientation and other things. With that, I just want to say thank you very much.

This week, we have with us, Greg Harpster. Greg is on the board for the LPG Charity Fund. He reached out to me via LinkedIn to talk about what they do and, frankly, I found it compelling. I felt compelled to ask Greg on.

Greg, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast.

Greg Harpster:  Russel, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here. We appreciate your help in spreading the word about our charity fund.

Russel:  Before we jump into that, why don’t I ask you to tell the listeners a little bit about your background? Who are you? Where’d you come from? How’d you get involved with the LPG Charity Fund?

Greg:  Basically, I’ve been in the LPG NGL business, commercial side mostly, but certainly, I’m familiar with logistics that surround that as you have to be. I started with a division of Enron and was there for 17 years.

Then, I went to work for some petrochemical companies supplying feedstocks. I did ethanol for a while. Just generally been in the commercial side of the energy industry for the past 35 years.

Russel:  What is the LPG Charity Fund?

Greg:  We are a fund that was started in the early ’90s. We are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. We have about 26 board members that are all volunteer.

We were started, primarily, because a gentleman had a heart attack in our industry but he didn’t have any insurance. We threw a fundraiser and that led to four more fundraisers to where we are today.

We’ve distributed probably over $2 million in funds, raised a little more than that. One thing that we’re really proud about is that our fund only uses about three percent of cash expenditures for maintaining things like the website and things like that as far as the charity board goes. They’re all volunteer. Nobody gets paid or anything like that.

It’s really a good little organization but not many people know about us.

Russel:  That’s certainly the experience I had when we first started talking. I was looking at what you guys do and I thought, I need to help you guys get the word out to the extent that I can because what you’re doing here is a big deal. It’s a very big deal.

One of the questions I have is, how do you find out about the people that need help?

Greg:  Hopefully, it’s more of word of mouth but we also have a website called lpgcharityfund.com. Sorry, lpgfund.com. Primarily, it’s most of the people in the LPG or NGL business in the U.S., and to some extent, in Canada, know about us.

We’ve been providing medical help or medical expense help for those who may have something catastrophic happen to them, where we don’t want them to eat up all their savings, if they have something that causes them to have an unexpected expense.

We’ve also helped in things such as temporary living expenditures and funeral expenditures. We have to pretty much follow IRS guidelines and that is that we have to maintain help to those that are in the LPG industry or their immediate family.

Russel:  How’s that defined? How’s the LPG industry defined?

Greg:  A number of major companies, such as Enterprise or Shell, or other people like that, that produce gas liquids, transport gas liquids, or out of refineries, there’s gas liquids produced from there. That, basically, encompasses the LPG business. It’s mostly just propane and butanes.

Ethane is a huge feedstock for petrochemical companies. Everything that evolves around that, those commodities, that’s what would be part of the LPG business.

Russel:  Basically, all the components of natural gas that’s produced that are not actually methane.

Greg:  That’s correct. Anything beyond methane, that’s right.

[laughter]

Russel:  How do you raise your money? How do you go about creating the money to be able to give it away?

Greg:  We’re really good at raising money. We’re not really good at finding people that need it. Most of the time, we find out the people that need it are out in the field. Hence, why we’re having this discussion.

We have four fundraisers. We have two Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments each year. One in Tulsa and one in Houston.

Those usually occur in February and also in the fall. We have a golf tournament down here in Houston in the fall. Also, a bowling tournament, usually in the early spring in Houston.

We do it that way and we also have annual sponsorships where a company could say they want to sign up for two events. There’s a certain level there. They could just make one donation a year. Then, that covers them for two or three teams in an event, things like that, to participate in.

Russel:  Basically, you’re getting together, having fun, and doing good?

Greg:  Exactly.

[laughter]

Russel:  That’s awesome.

Greg:  Which isn’t all bad.

Russel:  No, it’s not bad at all.

Greg:  It’s really a good group of the board of trustees. Everybody works together. Everybody has a responsibility. Like I said, it’s all volunteer.

It’s all major companies that they represent. It’s a pretty good little group and it’s been going since, like I said, ’92.

Russel:  One of the questions that comes up for me as I’m thinking about this is, most of the people that work for these large companies, they’re going to have medical benefits and such. How does that work? If I have medical benefits, would I still qualify to apply to get help from the LPG Charity Fund?

Greg:  It depends. Maybe you can’t meet your deductible and you’re out of work. We had a gentleman not too long ago, he couldn’t work. He needed some help just to pay his rent, things like that because he’s an hourly employee and he didn’t have any benefits.

It’s going to be a pretty dire situation that we would get involved with but we are more than willing to help anybody we can.

Russel:  I guess there’s a lot of pipeliners out there that, they work contracts. They work in construction or they’re welders or whatever and they’re working when there’s work and they might not be working when there’s not work. That’s the folks that would…

Greg:  Yes.

Russel:  Awesome.

Greg:  It’s basically being able to do a little bit extra for the people that are helping the business conduct what they need to do.

Greg:  Yes, sir.

Russel:  Interesting.

Greg:  To make sure that they don’t lose their home or something like that. If we can help them out with a deductible or whatever the case. On some cases, actually, we negotiated the charges that a hospital has sent them to a reduced amount. We help in that way as well.

Russel:  That’s interesting. That’s nothing to do with pipelining, per se, but the skills and knowledge necessary to be able to work with a hospital and negotiate what they’re charging so that you can pay a lesser number but still not damage your credit or something like that.

It’s one thing to do that for somebody else. It’s quite another thing to do it for yourself, particularly if you’re in the midst of the issue. It’s tough.

Greg:  It gets overwhelming.

Russel:  Tell me about the Hold ‘Em tournaments. How are those organized and run because that actually sounds like fun to me?

Greg:  It’s a lot of fun. We have to be pretty careful because of laws, gaming laws, and whatnot. Especially in the state of Texas.

Primarily, we bring in a guy that runs the show. We will rent out a place. Most of the time, we have them at Dave & Buster’s on Richmond. So, we advertise that out. People know about it and people like to come to it every year.

Anyway, we get a guy that organizes it. We have probably 15 tables and there’ll be a dealer at each table. You can do buy-ins and things like that. That’s the way we’ll raise money for the charity fund. There’s no straight gambling but we do give away door prizes and things like that.

Russel:  That sounds like a lot. I know a lot of times that gambling becomes, at least to me, becomes uninteresting because go buy more chips, go buy more chips, go buy more chips. You probably promote that because what you’re actually trying to do is raise money for your charity.

Greg:  Exactly. People want to do re-buys, as we call them, then they’re welcome to give us some more money and get some more chips.

Russel:  There you go. Interesting. What do you think your capacity is for one of these Hold ’em tournaments in terms of number of players?

Greg:  Right, 100 to 125 people attend. The number of players, probably 90 to 100. A lot of people come just to socialize and have lunch and things like that.

Russel:  When’s the next one that’s coming up? I think I’m going to go mark my calendar.

[laughter]

Greg:  Anybody can go to our website, lpgfund.com, and see when our events are but the next one in Houston is going to be in February probably. The next event we have actually down here is a golf tournament out at Tour 18. We’re going to do a scramble and all of that.

Russel:  Of course, you got to do a golf tournament if you’re going to raise money in the oil & gas world. That’s how you raise money in oil & gas, do golf tournaments.

Greg:  Absolutely. That was the first event.

[laughter]

Russel:  That’s awesome. I’m at your website. It’s a pretty big board that you guys have. It looks like you got 20 or 25 people on your board.

Greg:  Like I said, they represent many companies in the industry and majors and smaller companies, and things like that. Most of them reside here in Houston because, obviously, it makes it easier for us to get together and meet and progress on things.

Russel:  What would you say you’re most proud about in terms of some of the things you guys have done?

Greg:  It is so self gratifying to get a, “Thank you,” note back from someone that we have helped. They are so extremely appreciative of us being able to help. In many cases, they will need help down the road.

All they would have to do is submit an application to re-up so to speak. Once they qualify, as far as we know, unless they win the lottery, they’re going to continue to qualify.

Russel:  Interesting. How would somebody apply? What’s the application and review process look like?

Greg:  We do have an application. That is given out to somebody that would request it. I would encourage people to contact me, initially. Then, I can run it through the system. My cell phone is 346-221-5786 and my email is gharpster@sbcglobal.net.

After I receive that application, I’ll have a look at it. It will go to the executive committee, which is made up of the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and some other, at large, if you will, committee members.

Assuming it gets through that process, then it goes to the board for a vote. Odds are, if it gets that far, it’s going to get approved. I can’t even recall any that weren’t.

Russel:  How long does that process typically take if somebody were in need?

Greg:  Within a couple of weeks easily.

Russel:  Wow, that’s pretty fast.

[crosstalk]

Russel:  That’s one of the beauties of being a small, focused organization. You can move quickly.

Greg:  Yes, sir, that’s right. Also, thanks to email. It used to be the old send out the ballot thing and all of that stuff in the mail. It took a while.

[laughter]

Russel:  You’re dating yourself.

[crosstalk]

Russel:  Greg, you’re dating yourself, you realize, when you do that?

Greg:  Man, I can remember licking envelopes and all of that kind of stuff to send out invites to our events.

Russel:  I find this really interesting. I’m involved with several organizations that do scholarships but your focus here is really a little different. I think it’s awesome. I think what you guys are doing is really awesome.

If somebody wanted to donate, how does that work? We talked about the events you guys do but what about just making a donation? How does that work?

Greg:  No problem. All they’d have to do is contact somebody and get an address and mail it to us. That’s easy.

I also wanted to mention, if somebody is out there and wants some brochures that talk about our group, then I am more than happy to send them to them. If they could just contact me and I’ll send them away. Maybe they have an event coming up, they want to help us advertise a little bit, it’d be great.

Russel:  What else would you like us to know about the LPG?

Greg:  Russel, I think that’s about it. Again, we just want to try and get the word out to folks that are in the NGL or LPG business that may need some help down the road. We don’t want to miss anybody. We want to help wherever we can.

Russel:  Greg, I appreciate you coming on. Hats off to you and to the folks that are involved with the LPG and what you guys do. I think it’s really awesome. Hopefully, we’ll help you get some more folks going to your events and get the word out and, hopefully, help you guys help some more people.

Greg:  We certainly appreciate it and we hope that’s the case, Russel. Thank you so much.

Russel:  I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast and our conversation with Greg Harpster. Just a reminder before you go, you should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Visit pipelinerspodcast.com/win and enter yourself in the drawing.

If you would like to support the podcast, please leave us a review. You can do that on iTunes/Apple podcast, Google Play, or whatever smart device podcast application you use to listen to the podcast.

If you have ideas, questions, or topics you’d be interested in, please let me know on the contact us page at pipelinerspodcast.com or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.

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Transcription by CastingWords

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