Dare to give a hoot
When I was a kid, volunteerism was a very big thing. It was a different time. Where today you will find nothing but infomercials while channel surfing in the wee hours of the morning, back then you’d find lots and lots of public-service announcements. “Buckle up for safety” and “give a hoot, don’t pollute” were among the most popular catch phrases of the day, ranking right alongside “you deserve a break today” and “you’re in good hands.” You’d often see PSAs in prime time. Like I said, it was a different time.
One PSA that really resonated with me was the one that encouraged young Americans to join the Peace Corps. That seemed so cool. I always have had a bit of wanderlust in me and I’ve always found the idea of helping others appealing. See the world while helping one’s fellow man had an attractive ring to it. The U.S. Navy had a similar pitch at the time, but the Peace Corps seemed a lot safer.
I never joined, to my everlasting regret. I completed my degree, immediately got married and not long after started a family. So much for the Peace Corps — I had enough to do keep the peace in my own home, with two toddlers running around in full terror mode.
Recently, I wrote of Carole Perry, an officer of the Radio Club of America, who in her retirement still teaches on a volunteer basis. She also runs around the country trying to place curricula in schools in order to spark interest in radio communications among youths. Happily, she’s not alone in her volunteerism.
John Dettra is another RCA member who gives selflessly to the cause. John’s baby is the RCA’s scholarship program. When Dettra joined the scholarship committee 25 years ago, there were a half dozen named funds. Now, as chairman of the committee, he oversees a dozen funds, growth that largely can be attributed to his tireless efforts. Each of the funds doles out, on average, $1,000 scholarships to deserving students who are chosen by the engineering faculties at their schools. The awards are paid from the interest and dividends generated by the principal. Previously, scholarships were endowed at a level of $10,000, but, in a nod to the current economic times, the endowment threshold has been doubled to $20,000.
“The $10,000 doesn’t generate a thousand dollars anymore,” Dettra told me when I spoke with him recently for an article I’m writing about the RCA’s various outreach programs.
He also told me several heart-warming stories. One involved a young woman whose father had been laid off from his job and whose mother had taken seriously ill. The RCA scholarship was integral to her ability to stay in school.
“We have made a big difference,” Dettra said.
Yes, John, you have.
President Obama has asked all Americans to take up the yoke of volunteerism. Giving a hoot is all that’s required. The RCA would be a good place to start. You might not see the world, but you also won’t encounter mosquitoes the size of fighter jets. If lack of time is a factor — a common malady these days, when many Americans are being asked to do more than before by their employers—then consider writing a check to the RCA’s scholarship fund. I know John would appreciate it — as will the students who are aided by this worthy program.
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