Thursday, January 14, 2010

Volunteering at League HQ

Here's the scene at the ARRL Headquarters lobby, as seen from the volunteer Tour Guides' nook. We are a lot busier today than normal, because of various committee meetings and other activities around the Board meeting this weekend.

I've been a ham (amateur radio operator) now for 52 years, enjoying many facets of the hobby -- from Morse Code ("CW") to Open Source Software. In the past year, I've been volunteering at ARRL HQ, as a Tour Guide.

Tour Guides are an interesting lot. They are generally retired folk, like me, who have a bit of time available and who have a long involvement in the hobby and a commitment to the League. I see most of them only rarely, since our slots don't overlap. (I have Thursday mornings, if you'd like to drop in.) The League's coordinator, Diane Petrilli, does know how to keep us motivated, with an occasional group lunch, and a certain amount of "swag". Along these lines, one the best benefits is a special discount at the ARRL bookstore.

The real reason to be a Tour Guide, for me, is to meet a very interesting cross section of radio amateurs, along with spouses, friends, and family members. These are mostly "drop ins" who are visiting in the Newington CT area. Generally, they are long-time hams and League Members. Some of them are quite capable of giving me the tour -- and are happy to do so! On the other hand, there are a few who are just getting interested in the hobby and who need some encouragement which I'm happy to provide.

Tour Guides provide an interface between the visiting public and the ARRL organization, so the flip side for us is having the chance to learn what's what at the League itself. Many hams, myself included, have grown up thinking of the ARRL Headquarters as something like the "mother church". The first visit here is like a pilgrimage to hallowed ground, the historic station W1AW, the editorial offices of the publications like QST, and home of many services for members. I haven't seen anyone kneel to kiss the ground yet, but you get the idea.

Another good reason to hang out at HQ is the chance to operate W1AW. It's a thrill to be a "rare one" on the amateur shortwave bands. It's easy to create a "pile-up" of operators wanting to talk to this classic station. Just as interesting is the chance to use your choice of state-of-the-art radio equipment. It's one of the few ways to "try before you buy".

Today, with the Board of Directors in town, there don't seem to be any normal visitors. A good time to meet some Directors, enjoy the Board's snacks and coffee, and pursue the Internet.

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