The annual election for RASON just happened last month, and I am pleased and honored to be serving you for another term as president of the club. I will use this month’s column to describe some of our accomplishments over the last year and where we are heading.
We endured some very difficult times as a society and as a local community with COVID19 forcing curtailment of social activities. While this put a damper on some of our club events, we held a couple operating activities. Field Day was the highlight of the year, with three stations and ca. 25 people attending. The food was excellent, and we did quite well as a club garnering numerous bonus points and an overall score that was competitive with some of our best years. For those brave enough to endure the elements, we held Winter Field Day at the same location – Zagray farm museum. It was an opportunity to try the venue and experience remote operation in a more hostile environment. We also reinvigorated our foxhunting outings, with nearly one foxhunt per month in the Norwich area. Our informal liaison with MARC brought in some out of town guests to several of our hunts. We also furthered our education with a series of technical seminars held via Zoom. Our seminars covered foxhunting, go-box construction, Arduino and Raspberry Pi computers in the ham shack, satellite operation and brining ham radio into the local schools. Most of these talks have been recorded and can be viewed on our server. We also sponsored a Morse code education and practice net that ran weeknights for a few months. Those sessions were also recorded and are available to those who would like to learn.
A club is only as strong as its membership, and we took many steps to engage our existing members and increase our club roster. These efforts have begun to pay off. Our redesigned website (https://rason.org) offers a comprehensive overview of our club, technical resources and links, this monthly blog, a For-Sale site where we offer items on consignment, and an opportunity to join RASON, renew membership or donate through our online portal. Many people took advantage of the convenience that online membership application offers. We are also offering a Technician License Course that has ca. 9 students studying to become radio amateurs. We designed a New Ham Kit that is distributed at local VE sessions. We also ordered new QSL cards for RASON and have mailed them out to the ca. 30 radio amateurs in Southeastern CT who have received their Technician license this year. Our membership roster increased with ca. 11 new members joining in the last 3 months alone!
We also made substantial investments in our repeater this past year. Plagued by intermittent static (many times referred to as the scratchies), we hired professional climbers to install several new antennas on top of the water tower, providing capacity for our 440 MHz repeater, or 2 meter repeater, our digipeater and our packet node. We are also exploring the idea of linking our 440 MHz repeater to a 220 MHz radio to add SECT to the statewide ARES network. This can all be done with existing equipment and minimal, if any, expenditures. We removed ailing lead acid batteries from the repeater shack, freeing up space and eliminating a chemical hazard. Our repeater is now in very good shape thanks to the hard work of our technical committee.
Finally, we endured some tough financial times – owing largely to the inability to conduct the auction, which is our main fundraiser, for two years. The requirement to spend nearly $1200 on the repeater did not help. Our members stepped up to support us. We acquired equipment from the estate of WQ1V, which so far has netted over $350 for the club, and there is still much to sell. Another estate is on consignment and netted $160 for the club. We received ca. $500 in donations from several club members. Coupled with a successful membership drive, our balance is now back to a healthy $2000 and climbing. Our auction is around the corner, and we have a repeat auction in frame for next April. The club is in a good financial position for the future.
As we look forward, there is a proposal on the table to merge RASON with the Tri-City ARC to form a new club in Southeastern CT. Each club will have committees considering what this will look like and bringing a proposal to the membership of each club for a vote in a few months. The most powerful argument for doing this is to create a larger core of active members. We need to get to a future where we have more people willing to take leadership roles for events, activities and for the club as a whole. Can this happen independently of our clubs merging? Perhaps, but it will take more people leading events, participating in activities, talking up our club and recruiting new members – particularly people who enjoy activities and are willing to contribute ideas and time to RASON. Regardless of what form the club takes, I am confident for the future!