An editorial from Feedback, the newsletter of the Georgian Bay Amateur Radio Club

On Public Service and Volunteerism

I used to wonder why my neighbor never complains about my ham radio.

Then, one day, my wife clued me in. It seems she had told our neighbor about my radio...about how, if a blizzard came, and the power and phone were knocked out, and the roads were snowed in, we (and they) would still have contact with the outside world. For a service I may never have to provide, I enjoy the boon of a neighbor friendly to my hobby.

Such are the intangible rewards of public service. Sometimes there are more direct benefits. When the July 14th storm knocked out police and fire communications in Lindsay, local radio amateurs jumped in to fill the gap. In appreciation, the community intends to make meeting facilities available to their club free of charge.

But we take for granted the greatest reward: our amateur frequencies and privileges. You may be aware that Industry Canada is trying to become a profit-making enterprise, largely by auctioning off spectrum space. An IC inspector recently commented to me what a tremendous bargain we amateurs get, in megahertz per dollar. This allocation is under constant attack by bandwidth-hungry commercial interests. And when our case is advocated in the Commons (and in the U.S. Congress, and elsewhere), what justifies our privileges? NOT the need for skilled radio operators, or for experimenters to advance the radio art -- those needs are relics of the past. NOT our personal enjoyment -- regulators could hardly care less. Our ONLY defense these days is amateur radio's long and honorable record of public service.

So when you're asked to help with the Santa Claus parade, or the Santa Claus Net, or the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, or Jamboree- On-The-Air, or any of the other public service activities that we may undertake in the next year...think of it as the rent we pay for the frequencies we use and the hobby we enjoy. Say yes.

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What goes for the public, goes for the club.

I don't know why many of you belong to GBARC. (I'd like each and every one of you to tell me someday.) But I know why I belong. I remember my earliest days as a Technician-class amateur in the States... limited to 6 and 2 metres, with NO FM, NO repeaters, and NO other hams for 50 miles around. I enjoyed my hobby in solitary, and lived for the occasional sporadic-E opening on 6. Compared to that, Owen Sound is radio amateur heaven! I'll invest my time and money for an active radio club, a repeater, and other hams to talk to. I know the alternative, all too well.

Our club does not run on dues alone. It takes a tremendous amount of volunteer labor. At our last meeting, we launched what may be the most ambitious fundraising project GBARC has ever attempted. We can't do it with "burnout" effort from a few devoted members; a little effort -- just a few hours -- from every member, will produce greater results.

Think of what GBARC does for you now. Think of what GBARC could do for you, with triple the funding. (Then tell a club officer -- the executive committee is in the process of drawing up a budget proposal.) And when a club member asks for a few hours of your time, think of it as an investment you make in good fellowship, and a down payment on help when you need it someday. Say yes.

- Brad VE3RHJ