Mary Briggs

Mary is a retired LPN Field Nurse who worked at Presbyterian Hospital for 32 years. She is an active member of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and is a mentor with their Thresholds Program, helps with their weekend retreats with the mentally challenged, is a member of their Deaf Taskforce and has done bi-weekly prison ministry visiting inmates on-on-one for over 20 years. Mary was the Wings For LIFE International 2015 Volunteer of the Year, helps weekly at Wings For L.I.F.E. educational program, is an active Wings Prison Family Day volunteer, and was the 2015 Albuquerque City Volunteer of the Year.

Philip Gilbert – Volunteer Karate Instructor

Born in February 1949 in Los Angeles, California. Earned a BA degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona majoring in history and philosophy in 1971. University honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, and Phi Alpha Theta scholastic honorariums.

First job out of college: selling brushes, brooms, mops, and household cleaning supplies for the Fuller Brush Company door-to-door for four years.

Karate career: began karate with Traco International Kenpo Karate on February 5, 1973 in Tucson, Arizona under Grand Master Tomas Connor. Promoted to instructor less than a year later. In August 1974 I was sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico to manage a Traco Academy. A year later I was sent to Kansas City, Missouri to manage a larger Traco Academy. I opened a second academy during my tenure there and served as regional director starting in 1978. I received my First Degree Black Belt on January 5, 1978 from Grand Master Connor.

I returned to Albuquerque in July, 1979 and continued my karate training under Grand Master Bill Packer at AKKA Karate-USA. Grand Master Packer served under Grand Master Connor as senior instructor. Grand Master Packer owned the AKKA Karate-USA Academies with multiple locations around the country. I was teaching and taking lessons part-time while I was night managing VIP’S Big Boy Restaurants for 18
months.

I was then brought on full time by Grand Master Bill Packer in 1981 and served as regional director and general manager until the schools became franchises under Grand Master Packer. I owned two franchises in Albuquerque, New Mexico, one location in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and one in Aurora, Colorado. Upon Grand Master Packer’s death in August of 2005 I was appointed co-head instructor of AKKA Karate- USA to continue his legacy. I received my Ninth Degree Black Belt in December 2017. I retired from running karate schools in 2018 but remain as head instructor emeritus with AKKA Karate-USA.

Karate honors other than belt promotions: Induction into The International Kenpo Hall of Fame in 2017.

Despite retirement I still wished to volunteer my time as a karate instructor. Homer Gonzales introduced me to Ann Edenfield Sweet at Wings For L.I.F.E. We agreed to a five-week trial in October 2018 and have continued since. I had come to understand that 72% of children of one or more incarcerated parents become incarcerated themselves. I believe that a lack of confidence, a lack of direction, and a desire to belong causes many young people to make bad choices: smoking, drinking, drugs, and crime often to appear “cool” and be accepted in a chosen group. With self-confidence, discipline, and self-control taught in karate class children can be empowered to make better choices, thus avoiding incarceration. Phil was Wings For LIFE International’s 2019 Volunteer of the Year!

Other activities include: membership in the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Academy Alumni serving the department as needed; membership in New Mexico Trout an organization dedicated to fly-fishing and environmental issues in New Mexico; Commercial fly-tyer for fly fishing for 15 years; member of Calvary Church pastored by Skip Heitzig; and I am currently writing a manual on Kenpo Karate explaining the mechanics of the self-defense techniques, with an explanation for the name of each technique, as well as, describing the hidden elements in each technique, and provide an explanation how each technique evolved from previous techniques in the System.

Family information: wife Denise, son James, daughter-in-law Stacy, and two grand-children Haley and
Sydney.

Ray Pohl – Photographer

Ray takes photos for organizations because he enjoys meeting interesting people.  It’s his hobby, he loves giving the gift of a photo to someone, and he says that “Photography is the only hobby where you can shoot people and not go to jail.”  Ray started his love of photography in 1968 when he was in Viet Nam with the Air Force. He had been writing long letters home trying to describe the situation, airbase, and landscape of Vietnam.  A friend wrote him back and said simply, “Take a picture”.  That was the start of Ray’s incredible journey of photography.  He learned from a “pro” who just happened to be his direct supervisor.  Ray retired from the Air Force after 20 years, first starting as an enlisted man, and becoming an officer and a radar navigator on the B-52.  After “retirement” he worked as a photo lab manager and his reputation took over and now he takes photos for his church, high school graduations, weddings,  the military, other non-profits, and mostly importantly he does this all for free.  And Wings is proud to call Ray our “Wings Official Photographer!”