Category Archives: Clubs

West Central MN Amateur Radio Club

This morning was the monthly meeting of the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club. I joined this club about four months ago thanks to the invitation of Dean Herzberg, NYØI.

June 2, 2012 meeting of the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club. Photo taken by Antonio Mitchell.

It’s the first amateur radio club I’ve ever joined. I wish I’d joined one sooner! Certainly I wouldn’t have had to drive as far to attend club meetings while I lived in the Twin Cities. This club meets in Madison, about 45 minutes away from my house. It’s worth the drive, though. I get to put faces with call signs and catch up on local developments. Speaking selfishly, it’s already benefited me a great deal. Dean helped me mount my dual-band antenna on the roof, and he allowed me to borrow the club’s antenna analyzer, too. I hope I can return the favor somehow. That’s the sort of thing that happens in an amateur radio club.

My son, Antonio, came along this morning, hoping to take his Technician exam. Unfortunately the test-materials hadn’t arrived yet, so he was understandably disappointed. I invited the Volunteer Examiners to my house for dinner when the materials do arrive. Since my son has become adept at grilling, maybe he’ll be the one to serve them steak if they decide to make the trip.

One of the things we discussed this morning was the possibility of helping out at the airshow two weeks away here in Granite Falls. There is a gap that needs filled in their operations, namely the coordination of shuttles running between the airport and remote parking lots. It remains to be seen whether we can muster enough volunteers, but if we can it would be a great way to demonstrate our capabilities and practice working together for the day we assist in an emergency. I’m hoping we will get some more volunteers from another ARES® group nearby. It would really be neat if we had enough hams with APRS to put the shuttles on a map, but that’s a pretty tall order right now. I’ll be happy just to put one ham in each parking lot, one at the airport, and perhaps one NCS at the midpoint if we decide to use simplex. The local sheriff has a portable tower that he has offered for our use, and it might be just the thing for an NCS to use. All these details need to be worked out, but that’s exactly why these opportunities are so valuable — better to figure out how to do these things now rather than in a time of crisis.

If you aren’t a member of a local amateur radio club, I encourage you to look into one. It is well worth your while!


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Have Handheld, Will Travel — Third Stop: VE3OSC!

This morning I once again brought my HT outside with me while I sipped my morning coffee. Don, VA3XFT, was my first contact. Don is a friendly, helpful fellow. The first time I met him was yesterday evening, when he heard me calling for Wade, VE3WGK — when Wade didn’t answer, Don called me and offered to call Wade on the telephone for me. I didn’t take him up on it then, but this morning I did take him up on his offer to call and find out more about the amateur radio station at the Ontario Science Centre. When he came back on the air he said that the station is manned every day from 1000-1400 hrs. Thanks, Don!

After another contact with Steve, VA3SF (who, like Don, operated the repeater we were using), I prepared to go to the Ontario Science Centre. My wife decided to come along, making it a grand adventure. We walked to the nearby subway terminal and soon were rumbling along. After transferring to a bus, we arrived at the Ontario Science Centre and made our way to amateur radio station VE3OSC on the fourth level.

Bill, VA3WTT, volunteering at VE3OSC

Bill, VA3WTT, was manning the station. This Scottish gentleman showed us the warmest hospitality, inviting me to come into the booth, sign the guestbook, and check in to a 2m ARES net that was in progress.

NØIP checking in to the Toronto ARES 11:00 daily 2m net

Ken, VA3KRS, was net control and gave me a warm welcome.

Bill also helped me get on 40m, where I tapped out a CQ with some Bencher paddles. For some reason the HF radio seemed deaf, so I’m not sure all was in order at the moment. But no matter! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the station of the Ontario Science Centre Amateur Radio Club. It’s a great idea. I applaud the Ontario Science Centre for including this permanent display, and I applaud all the hams who man it every day.

Bill gave me a very nice QSL card, pictured above, and shook my hand. After saying farewell, my wife and I made our way to the OMNIMAX theater where we watched a documentary on the building of the Canadian Railroad through the Rocky Mountains. It was informative and full of amazing footage of a restored steam engine puffing through some sublimely scenic parts of Canada.

None of this would have happened had I not brought along my HT on this trip. Only because I happened to contact Wade, VE3WGK, did I learn about the station at the Ontario Science Centre. I’m glad I brought the HT, and I’m glad I met Wade and all these other fellows on the air. Maybe when I get back home I’ll even EchoLink back to Toronto and chat with them again on 2m and 70cm.

Here you can see some more photos of our trip to VE3OSC, the amateur radio station at the Ontario Science Centre.

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Filed under Clubs, Portable Operation

ARES® & Incorporation: ARRL’s Policy

Just Google “County ARES, Inc.” (click here) and you’ll see that there are lots of ARES® groups out there who have incorporated. It sure seems like a great idea because it allows you to file for 501(c)3 status, opening doors for donations of cash and equipment, free website hosting for non-profits, and grants that require 501(c)3 status.

But to do this correctly we must ensure compliance with ARRL policy — ARES® is ARRL’s program, not ours! We’re not free to just do whatever we feel like. Here are the two challenges we’re facing:

  1. The ARRL insists that local ARES® groups not incorporate
  2. “ARES®” is a registered trademark of the ARRL that cannot legally be used in the name of another corporation without the ARRL’s permission

According to this document (click here) on the ARRL website:

ARES® and Amateur Radio Emergency Service® are registered trademarks of the ARRL. Any use of these trademarks must have the registered trademark notation (circle R®)

ARES® is a program of the ARRL. Local ARES® groups under the direction of the ARRL field organization or its appointees (SEC, DEC, EC) cannot be organized as a club or incorporated as this will conflict with the ARES® program. [emphasis added]

I emailed the ARRL asking how we should go about incorporating an entity for 501(c)3 status to support the ARES® group here. ARRL Membership and Volunteer Programs Assistant Manager Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, kindly replied. Here is an excerpt from his helpful response:

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service – ARES is a program of the ARRL. ARES is not an entity. The ARES brand is trademarked by the ARRL and may be used with permission from the ARRL.

The job of Emergency Coordinator is a political position in which the EC promotes the ARES program and supports training among the local Radio Amateurs in the community. This is done mostly through the local clubs.

The Emergency Coordinator’s job does not involve fund raising or corporate management. Equipment such as repeaters, generators, etc are supplied by the local Amateur Radio community and clubs. ARES supplies training and coordination. Note the job title Emergency coordinator not manager.

Forming a club or corporation is not only beyond the duties of the EC but also conflicts with the basic ARES requirement.

  • The only requirement to belong to ARES is an Amateur Radio License and a desire to serve.
  • There is no requirement to join any club or organization.
  • There are no dues to participate in ARES.

So I’m not out in left field for wanting some kind of entity to support the local ARES® group — the ARRL clearly depends on local clubs to supply equipment for ARES® work. As far as the EC not getting involved in fund raising, well, I obviously need to wear more than one hat at this stage of the game. There are only a dozen or so hams in the whole county at this point.

The nearest club is pretty far away, so it makes sense to form a new “club” to serve this purpose. The ARRL wants the club to be distinct from the local ARES® group; okay, we can do that. We’ll just clearly state the purpose of our “club” is to support the local ARES® group. You can find a good example of this wording over at the Wisconsin ARES/RACES “501(c)3 Links and Information” Page (click here).

As Mr. Fusaro pointed out, membership in this “club” must never be a prerequisite to participation in the local ARES® group.

I think the name of this “club” should clearly reflect it’s purpose. If the local hardware store has a generator to donate, surely the idea of donating it to the “Yellow Medicine County Amateur Radio Emergency Service®” would be more appealing than donating it to the “Yellow Medicine County Amateur Radio Club.” But my brother, an attorney, has explained to me that since “ARES®” and “Amateur Radio Emergency Service®” are registered trademarks of the ARRL, they cannot legally be used in an entity’s name without permission from the ARRL.

I’m assuming we don’t have permission to use “ARES®” in our “club” name, but I’ve asked for clarification on this. If not, we could always name it something similar, e.g. “Yellow Medicine County Amateur Radio Emergency Corps/Support/Operators Association, Inc.” or something like that.

I don’t want this post to turn into an ARRL-bashing session, but if some of you readers have some helpful insight and/or experience with ARES®-related incorporation, I’d love to hear it.


Filed under ARES®, Clubs

Neat Find in the QST Archives

When I was a boy my father paid for my membership in the ARRL, but when I got out on my own I let my membership lapse because of the cost. When I finally joined again last year, I mainly did it so I could use the outgoing QSL bureau. Since then, however, I have come to appreciate other benefits of membership. One of those benefits is full access to the QST Archives. They are a treasure-trove!

The other day while doing a little research for some blog posts that are in the hopper, on a whim I searched for “Granite Falls,” the small town where I live. Sure enough, I got a hit — from September, 1969. It’s just one photo and a caption, but it’s an eye-opener. It shows that once upon a time Amateur Radio was used in an emergency here. For sure I’ll be showing this to the Emergency Manager in our county:

September, 1969 issue of QST, p. 66. Copyright © 2012 American Radio Relay League, Inc. - All rights reserved.

Using I looked up the fellow on the right, WAØJRA, and sent him an email inquiring about Amateur Radio here in Granite Falls back in those days. I’m looking forward to his reply.

Have you searched the QST Archives for references to your own city? Try it!

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A Wasted Trip Thoroughly Unwasted

Last Saturday I picked up Andrew (KCØYFY) and his wife Joleen (KDØDOT) at 8:00 A.M. and headed for the monthly meeting of the West Central Minnesota Amateur Radio Club. It’s a 45 minute drive from Granite Falls, so we had plenty of time to talk. But once we got to the location of the meeting, our conversation took an abrupt turn. We were the only ones there!

Andrew asked, “You don’t think the meeting got canceled because of Easter weekend?”

I groaned. No way! “Here,” I said, grabbing my cellphone, “let me give Dean a call.” Dean (NYØI), the fellow who first invited me to join the club, is the Energizer bunny rabbit of ham radio — especially when it comes to building and maintaining the VHF/UHF repeaters out our way. But we quickly discovered that none of us had his phone number.

“Wait a minute!” I said. “We’re HAMS! Let’s call somebody on the radio!” What a novel idea. To think of using a radio instead of a cell phone to call another ham! I put down my cellphone and grabbed my HT. “NØIP monitoring,” I called on the local repeater.

“NYØI,” came back Dean! “The meeting has been rescheduled to next Saturday,” he explained when I inquired. “We published it on our Facebook page and announced it on the net. Sorry!” Again, I groaned. Down in Granite Falls I can’t hear the repeater they use for their net, and I long ago suspended my infernal Facebook account. “But how about I meet you for breakfast?” Dean asked.

I looked at Andrew and Joleen, who nodded. “Sure!” I replied. “Where do you want to meet?”

After getting directions to a small-town diner just up the street, we headed there and found a table. Within minutes, Dean arrived. When the waitress came by, he asked, “What’s your birthday special?”

“It’s your birthday?!” I asked. Sure enough, it was his birthday, and he had dropped everything to meet us at a moment’s notice. What a guy!

After a great conversation that ranged from ham radio to church life, Dean invited us up to the repeater site on the edge of town. We piled into our cars and headed over to the tower of the local FM broadcast station, where Dean pointed out three verticals mounted partway up. These were the antennas for the two repeaters he had there, he explained. Two huts crouched at the foot of the tower; one was the FM broadcast station’s, and the other the local sheriff’s (for their own repeater which used an antenna at the very top of the tower). Dean took us into this second hut, which also contained his two repeaters — one on 2 meters, and the other on 75 cm.

I had never seen a repeater in my life. Dean explained how they worked, and he told us about past equipment and current plans to improve what they had. Having been an HF CW guy all my life, I felt like a tourist in a foreign country — and I enjoyed every minute of it! After thanking Dean, the three of us headed back to Granite Falls.

On the long drive home, we continued the conversation we’d begun on the way there. The local ARES® Emergency Coordinator position is open, and Andrew is wondering if I might consider taking it. I promised him I’d contact the DEC and learn more about what is involved. Lots to think about!

As far as attending the club meeting that never happened, I suppose it was a wasted trip. But thanks to Andrew, Joleen, and Dean it most definitely was not wasted! After all these years as a ham, I’m finally meeting fellow hams in person. I wish I’d done it sooner.

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