SARA Club History

 SARA Club History ~ last update: 01 Dec 2023

SARA's Club History

January, 1958 ~ 2024

The Shiawassee Amateur Radio Association [SARA] was founded in January, 1958 (we are approaching 56 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 marks 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 of 'touch down', our video was at the NOAA Weather Bureau in White Lake (near Pontiac). Various fire departments and SARA team members did "after event" damage assessment throughout the impacted area (Perry-Vernon-Lennon). National response team managers {Homeland Security} 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. The area covered was over such a large area and the report quality and timing were outstanding."

In the early 1970's the club participated in the First Annual River Daze Event (later to become the 'Curwood Festival' in Owosso). 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 immediate 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 all of the actions 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 again that hams are a "great community resource" and provide valuable communication service when needed to the local community.

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 Federal ruling any 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 (illegally). 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 and how amateurs interact with these new technologies. The terror attack on the World Trade Center (9/11/2000) and a revised focus on emergency communication coordination resulted in Homeland Security being formed. 'Homeland' depends on radio amateurs to fill communication 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. NOTE: Cell phones and 'wired' internet generally become nonoperational in most large scale emergencies. Hams seem to always step forward and come through to meet community emergency requirements. Anyone wishing to assist Homeland MUST have communications training certificates from passing classes on emergency communications. SARA supports and helps track this in conjunction with the local ARES group (separate from SARA). Emergency communications require pre-event training and exercises. Without coordination prior to the event, activities would not be effective. Pre-event training is required to be able to actually participate in event support. Please come and join us.

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 the local ARES group (controlling group).

In March, 2019, the SARA / ARES team helped with disaster reporting after tornadoes hit from Perry, Vernon, and Lennon. Groups covered each damage site for interviews, pictures and assessments. It was a very well run operation and recognition from national level Homeland Security was significant, to quote "We have never seen such a wide spread event covered so thoroughly and quickly. Compared to many national experiences, you guys are top level. These volunteers are great at doing the job! Really appreciated." Took two days, but was quickly handled by our local volunteers. Thus, showing local officials that amateur radio is a great asset for the local community.

So, SARA is still doing 'the good things' locally for the 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' do seem to take quite a few of the leadership positions. We would welcome help from any hams in the area.

SARA VE Team provides local access to amateur radio licensing. We test locally every two months. We can provide assistance to anyone looking for a new license or any upgrades. Contact our club.

SARA {live} meets at the County EOC / Homeland Security Office in Corunna (in the James P. Capitan Center ~ Emergency Operations Center [EOC], basement of the building) 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 direct phone linkage into the state emergency operations center (Lansing). The club was asked to exit the Red Cross building (in 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 for about two years.

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 all our live meetings. Our current station trustee is: Tom Carpenter, KI8AS. Moving our station, W8QQQ, to the Capitan Center allowed operation from the Shiawassee county EOC for when/if it is required. In 2020 SARA removed it's station from the EOC due to COVID impacts (non-use) and security (SARA access to EOC restrictions). We currently (2023) do not have a station location for HF operations. We carry in and setup in the EOC with VHF/UHF equipment as requires to support club activities and ARES support (SET, special Skywarn, etc.). Skywarn and club nets are run from member's individual locations.

We have club meeting minutes available 'online' (starting with Jan-2014) through current meetings.

In March of 2020 the COVID-19 outbreak caused many changes in the U.S. and proper 'social distance' became a familiar topic in our society. Impact to our SARA club was the stopping of physical live meetings {the initial last 'live' was March 2020). 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 continued under COVID rules, the future direction was unknown. We started up live meetings (at EOC) and are holding live with Zoom meetings through current times (October, 2023).

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 did not have a club remote operation for FD. Members are hoping we can have a station setup for 2021 and beyond, but we need to wait for COVID restrictions to be listed and lifted.

2021/22 - COVID 19 Recovery

SARA continues to struggle with COVID impacts. The club participated in 'Winter Field Day' in January, 2021 and made plans for 'Michigan QSO Party', 17-18 April 2021. We had NOT reopened VE testing yet {13 Feb 2021} 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. 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 time frame. Public visitors will probably NOT be allowed for 2022, but hoping for 2023.

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 desirable when you want to setup and tear down 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 locally involved. Making several of us very happy that the FD event was correctly cancelled. Club members were working FD "at home" (like 2020) and plans were to submit logs for club credit.

We had a 'live meeting', ending 31 months of COVID shutdown, on 08 November, 2022! 

SARA continues to follow any further COVID impact to our activities. The club is watching the hamfest calendar activity slowly recover. We are starting to plan full club activities around the "Michigan QSO Party" {17 Apr 2023 - 12:00 noon to 12:00 midnight local}, "ARRL Field Day {24~25 Jun 2023"}, and some local events. We restarted live testing at the EOC on August 24, 2023. The lone applicant failed to show up for testing due to other personal activities. We had 3 VEs for the session, but had no license activity.   The next 'live testing' date is set for 26 Oct 2023 at the EOC. (Currently have four people registered, October 14, 2023)

We held a successful FD event 24th/25th Jun, 2023 at the Durand Sportsmen Association facility on 9951 Prior Rd., Durand (a big THANK YOU to them). See link 2023 Field Day. 

We are planning a phone November Sweepstakes for activation probably at Kevin Middleton's, K8MID,  home for Nov 18, 2023. So we think COVID restrictions (impacts) for SARA moving forward are behind us, but we will not predict the future, but feel things are improving and back to 'normal'.

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 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 anywhere on the web.