SARA Club History

SARA Club History ~ last update: 26 Oct 2023

SARA's Club History

January, 1958 ~ 2022

The Shiawassee Amateur Radio Association [SARA] was founded in January, 1958 (we are over 64 years old). The club received the call W8QQQ in honor of Richard Sternaman of Owosso. Richard was one of the club founders and passed away shortly after the club began. The callsign, W8QQQ, was Richard Sternaman's from the fall of 1952 through 1956 (probably until his death). Then in 1958 the club obtained W8QQQ and 'Wiskey-Eight-Quack-Quack-Quack' has been active from SARA and on the air since that time. SARA is an ARRL affiliated club and our VE testing uses the ARRL VE program.

Emergency Communications and Public Service have been important to the SARA club from inception. In 1961, the club was contacted by the State of Michigan to provide communications for the dedication and opening of the freeway M78/M69 (now called I-69). The SARA club was incorporated as a non-profit organization by the State of Michigan in 1961. Then it was on 20 Nov 1961 that SARA became an affiliated club with the ARRL, thus 2022 will mark 61 years of ARRL support. In July, 1964, SARA members were on hand to help county health officials distribute the Sabin polio vaccine which was a large undertaking at the time. In a project called 'SOS', over 300 radio messages were handled for recipients of the drug by the club.

In 2019 we were part of the response to the three tornadoes ripping thru Shiawassee County. Members were live Storm Spotting and reported them to NWS and then worked with the Homeland Security Response Team. Within five minutes, video was at the NOAA Weather Bureau in White Lake. Various fire departments and SARA team members did after event damage assessment throughout the impacted area (Perry-Vernon-Lennon). National team managers said: "Outstanding job by the team. For a 'small team', the efforts were the best they have ever seen for a disaster of this magnitude over such a large area."

In the early 1970's the club participated in the First Annual River Daze Event (later to become the 'Curwood Festival'). SARA held it's first Swap and Shop in 1975.

In January, 1978, a very bad snow storm hit the mid-Michigan area and SARA emergency communications assisted several county and local government agencies with their efforts. On the first night of the storm word was passed through SARA's control system that a "kidney dialysis patient" in Owosso required transportation to Flint for a treatment (a very critical need). While trying to arrange that transportation, a second patient was found to need similar transportation. In working through the system, it was decided that SARA members would take the lead in getting the action required. SARA setup ground transportation to get both patients into Durand, where a special 'snow train' had been setup for the transportation into Flint. The patients got to Flint for their treatments and were spared facing further threat to their lives. SARA members were very proud of this experience and proving that hams are a "great community resource" and provide valuable communication service when needed.

The 1980's brought SARA to the forefront in fighting for amateur radio rights. Members stood firm in the opposition to restrictive tower and antenna ordinances and had them removed from the books. This was a year prior to when the FCC issued it's ruling on PRB-1. PRB-1 was a ruling limiting local authority from imposing restrictions on amateur radio antenna's. Also, SARA was involved when local cable TV companies started broadcasting on amateur frequencies. SARA was able to force the cable companies to 'clean up their act' and use proper frequencies. At one point the FCC was in the area monitoring and checking to insure the signals were legal, this action was based largely on SARA's inputs to the FCC.

The 1990's and 2000's brought additional challenges to our group. The use of personal cell phones and home computers (utilizing the internet) have greatly changed the communication needs of the general public. The terror attack on the World Trade Center (2000) and a revised focus on emergency communication coordination resulted in Homeland Security being formed. 'Homeland' depends on radio amateurs to fill needs during emergency operations. SARA continues to train and work with the Department of Emergency Management to retain coordination and support for emergency communications in our county's community. We have active RACES / ARES groups. Cell phones and 'wired' internet become nonoperational in most large scale emergencies. Hams seem to always step forward and come through to meet community requirements. Anyone wishing to assist Homeland MUST have communications training certificates from passing classes on emergency communications. SARA supports and does this in conjunction with the local ARES group.

SARA works with the 'NOAA' and 'National Weather Service [NWS]' in the 'Skywarn' program to provide weather/storm spotting and inputs to the severe weather evaluation program. So the club still retains a strong focus on community reporting and supports NWS/NOAA. We help support the local repeater networks that have continued to progress with digital processes and connection to world networks through use of the internet. We hold our annual Field Day operations and display our practice of setting up in emergency conditions and demonstrating our ability to communicate in the field. NOTE: Training is required by the NWS for any 'storm spotter' reporting. SARA supports this through our local ARES group.

So, SARA is doing 'the good things' for our local community. If you have a desire to assist (and have some fun along the way), come join us. We need support with assistance in ARES and Skywarn activities. These groups are separate from SARA, but the 'SARA officers' seem to take quite a few of the leadership positions.

SARA {live} meets at the County EOC / Homeland Security Office in Corunna (in the James P. Capitan Center) on the second Tuesday of each month (except December). In the Fall of 1962 Club was at 219 W. Exchange St. (downtown) and then moved in the fall of 1969 to the Red Cross; 1302 W. Main St. The Red Cross moved (2000) to 708 Corunna Avenue, Corunna, and SARA went with them. The club had an operating station room at the Red Cross ~ W8QQQ. We had linkage into the state emergency operations center (Lansing). The club was asked to exit the Red Cross building (2015) and moved first to a county facility (in Corunna) for a few meetings and then we went to Baker College Bldg. 16 (room 1632) in the fall of 2015.

At the October, 2017 meeting the club voted to move the club meeting to the James P. Capitan building in Corunna, this is the county EOC building (lower level). Starting in November of 2017 we started using the James P. Capitan Center location for our live meetings. Our current station trustee is: Tom Carpenter, KI8AS. Moving our station, W8QQQ, to the Capitan Center allows operation from the Shiawassee county EOC for when/if it is required.

We have recent club meeting minutes available 'online' (starting with Jan-2014) {2022 - working on this with a major web site move and 'rewrite' of our entire web site.}.

In March of 2020 the COVID-19 outbreak caused many changes in the U.S. and 'social distance' became a familiar topic in our society. Impact to our SARA club was the stopping of physical {live} meetings. We changed to 'Zoom' online meeting format for ARES and SARA club meetings. We held one VE testing session at McCurdy Park on 27 June 2020 {outside}. For the remainder of 2020, no testing sessions were held by our club. We had no 'inside meeting space' as COVID restrictions stopped club's access to the EOC club space. As we continue under COVID rules and the future direction is unknown - watch our Web Site as schedules develop during the calendar year.

2020 Field Day [FD] one of the club's major events was not held as a group. Several members operated from their home stations, but the 'Fair Ground' site was not utilized. I believe this is the first year since the club's inception in 1958 that we have not had a club remote operation for FD. Members are hoping we can have a station setup for 2021, but we need to wait for COVID restrictions to be lifted.

2021 - COVID 19 Recovery

SARA continues to struggle with COVID impacts. The club participated in 'Winter Field Day' in January, 2021 and make plans for 'Michigan QSO Party', 17-18 April 2021. We have NOT reopened VE testing yet {13 Feb} but would like to do so soon {our testing site continues to be 'shutdown'}. We are starting Field Day 2021 plans during club meetings. Current planning status based on ARRL data, it appears we will be doing separate station activities like the 2020 event.

2020 Field Day [FD] event was not held as a group setup. Several members operated from their home stations, but the 'Fair Ground' site was not utilized. I believe this is the first year since the club's inception in 1958 that we did not had a club setup for remote operations for FD. Members are hoping/wishing we can have a group station setup for 2021, but we need to wait for COVID restrictions to be lifted to be safe. We are monitoring as we approach the 1st of June timeframe. Public visitors will probably NOT be allowed for 2021.

Well we ended up cancelling the 2021 FD activity for the Fairgrounds (25 June), but it was not COVID related. Having the several previous days with classic Michigan rainstorms and a forecast for heavy rain storms through the entire weekend (not really when you want to setup and teardown a large tent). We decided it would not be a very good time to show our abilities. Saturday decided to bless us with a severe thunderstorm watch for 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm, followed with Tornado warnings at 6:00 to 7:00. Some tornado activity (Bancroft area) kept us involved. Making several of us happy that the FD event was correctly cancelled. Club members were working at home (like 2020) and plan to submit logs for club credit.

Keep watching our SARA Local Events Page and/or SARA Ponderings and/or Past Minutes on various activities.

2022 - COVID 19 Recovery Continues

SARA continues to follow with COVID impact to our activities. The club is watching hamfest recover, starting to plan club activities around the "Michigan QSO Party" {16 Apr 2022 - 12:00 noon to 12:00 midnight local}, "ARRL Field Day {25~26 Jun 2022"}, and some local events. We have NOT reopened VE testing yet {will continue discussing at club meetings} but would like to do so soon {our testing site continues to be 'shutdown'}. Current Field Day planning status is waiting for on ARRL information, it is not known what 2022 detailed plans are at this time (04 Mar 2022). Well, we did a 'restricted' 2022 FD event at Kevin Middletons home (and several members home stations). We are planning a phone Nov Sweepstake activation at Kevin's home for Nov, 2022.

2022 - Novenber

SARA 'restarted' live meetings for and are planning our December Dinner Party (13 Dec) activity and VE testing (22 Dec) in a 'live format'. Hoping we can continue plans and that major disruptions from COVID concerns are behind us.

Keep watching our SARA Local Events Page and/or Past Minutes on various activities and most current status.

Shiawassee Amateur Radio Association

SARA Web Design / Mapping for Our Site

This "Web Details" links to W8QQQ Web Design Page which links to our thoughts on Web design. It contains a few hints and warnings for our site and internet browsing in general. Please take time to review it and you may find increased efficiency and security whenever searching on the web.