I often hear hams lament that their communities show little interest in amateur radio. While this may be true, these hams have to realize that community involvement is a two-way street. To get communities involved in amateur radio, amateur radio needs to be involved with the community.
I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. Here in Ann Arbor, MI our amateur radio club worked with the local Red Cross and maintained a station there in the 1980s and early 1990s. For reasons too complicated to get into here, this partnership was severed in the late 1990s.
Even so, we often talked about what we’d have to do to re-establish the mutually beneficial relationship that we once had. Unfortunately, we really didn’t know who to talk to at the Red Cross, and the attempts we made to try to get back in their good graces were fruitless.
That is until I joined the Ann Arbor Rotary Club in March 2006. It just so happened that one of the guys that joined the club at the same time I did was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Red Cross. Not only that, but he was very interested in re-establishing an amateur radio capability at the local chapter.
The result is that our club is now working with them again. We have helped them install their 47 MHz radios at the chapter headquarters and in their emergency response vehicles. Having finished that project, we are now in the process of setting up the amateur radio station. While we may have eventually been successful without the contact I made at the Rotary Club, my guess is that this contact greatly accelerated the effort.
Another example is our work with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. This is a science museum that gives kids (and adults, too) some real, hands-on experience with science and technology. There are, for example, exhibits that help kids learn about electricity, springs, weather, electricity, and other topics in science and technology.
When the executive director of the museum spoke to our Rotary Club, the thought occurred to me that this would be a great place for an amateur radio station. I met with the director, who is also a Rotary Club member, and he was very enthusiastic about the possibilities. The result is that we are going to be operating a series of special events throughout the fall of this year, with a goal of setting up a permanent station at the museum in 2008.
I’m sure that my involvement with the Rotary Club was a big part of the enthusiastic reception they gave me and amateur radio. Membership in the Rotary Club, and other community service clubs, such as Kiwanis or the Optimists, give one, if not instant credibility, at least some measure of it. So, my advice is that if you want to get your community involved in amateur radio, perhaps you should first get involved with your community, and one way to do that is to join a service club.