Friday, May 31, 2013

Hoping to Get Clubbed

I recently re-joined the ARRL. I let my membership lapse two years ago during a time of financial trouble and a waining interest in anything and everything beyond surviving. Now that I'm on a more even keel financially and emotionally, it felt like it was time to get involved again.

I was perusing the site last night, looking for a radio club near my home in Western NJ. I was surprised at how many clubs were listed within 25 miles or so of home. I was also surprised by the numbers listed in the membership fields; especially since I cannot seem to find anyone anywhere on any repeater in the area. So I decided to check out a few of the club websites and plan to attend a meeting in the near future. That is when things really got weird.

I visited seven club websites. Not one…not a single one, had anything remotely recent posted. Some of the sites had not been updated since 2008. So, back to the ARRL list I went. Only one of these clubs seemed defunct. All the others had submitted annual reports in late 2012 or early What is going on?

I searched around a little more and jumped on to check out the listed officers of the clubs. Most appear to be active. Seriously? Why is there no club love? That got me thinking back to my first/last/only club experience. I joined the EDCARC (El Dorado Amateur Radio Club) shortly after I received my Tech ticket. I found them on the ARRL list, emailed then President Don Brooks, KJ6YST and received a warm and timely reply. I showed up at the next meeting, was met by Don, introduced to several club members and brought into the fold. At the next meeting I was asked to, "bring some new blood," to the Board. I accepted gladly.

For the next two years, I was very active with the club. There were weekly nets, monthly board meetings, monthly club meetings, and eventually ARES meetings, trainings, and nets. We had regular outings, field days, and public service events. There were people my age, much younger and much older. We all got along, learned from each other, and had a ton of fun. Then I got a new job and I was able to attend less and less. I missed it…a lot. In fact, I still do. Which is why I wanted to get into a new club ASAP, but apparently things are different here.

That got me thinking. Maybe I should start my own club. Then I considered how little time I have now and that idea went away. So then I thought about what I WANT in a club. I always find that defining what I want or what I believe should be, is a good way to frame the idea. Here's what I came up with so far:

  • Meetings should be social events, not a second job. They should be fun to attend
  • The bulk of the time spent should be on furthering the hobby, not servicing the club
  • Atmosphere should be fun and inviting
  • The club should attract people I would want to hang out with otherwise
  • Information should be redly available and regularly updated
  • Dues should only offset costs that are REQUIRED: e.g. renting meeting space, upkeep of a repeater system, printing or web-site costs, beer (just seeing if you're paying attention)

I'm not sure there is a club that meets these criteria, but I'm hoping there is. If not, I'm hoping that there are some other hams locally that are looking for similar things in a radio club, because I'm getting pretty bored playing radio all by myself.

What are you experiences in radio clubs? Have they all been stuffy haunts of rules and regulations? Have they been fun and informative? Do you belong to a club? Why or why not? Am I off the mark in what I hope to get out of a radio club? Am I missing something? Seriously, I'd like to know.

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