Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Volunteerism and hang gliding clubs...

Time for a non-flying post, as often, in the world of hang gliding, there is much that goes on that is not related to flying... or much that *can* go on if you want to be helpful. It's surprising how much is needed, in a way. There's a lot of work required to get to good launches and land in safe landing zones. Most of that work is local, some is national.

On the national front, it amazes me that USHPA (the nat. org.) requires so much of its regional directors. RDs have to travel, partially at own expense, twice a year (during the work week!) to conferences around the country. At these conferences, there are all kinds of meetings and breakout sessions. That's a sacrifice I can't make, my time is just tooooo valuable.

Much of the best work is done by individuals who just take a load on their back and carry it far down the road. Two individuals who spring to mind are SG and Owen.

SG started hanggliding.org and made it the top hang gliding website in google search results. It's a fantastic forum where I have made a lot of friends and learned a lot. SG didn't even solicit financial help with the considerable costs until we begged him to, but we can't account for his even more valuable time.

Another prime example is Owen Morse, who single handedly coordinated and funded (he got slight financial assistance that he mostly passed on to the photographers) an art exhibit at the John Wayne airport, where hang gliders now (still!) hang above the baggage claim, and hang gliding pictures and videos greeted passengers for months.

On that note, I'm looking forward to doing a project that is mostly private, mostly under the... authority... of another pilot (and better man than I). It is my goal that hang gliding on the West Coast become easier, especially the learning part. We'll see... it's a lofty goal, but worth aiming high for.

On a final note, volunteering for an all-volunteer, non-profit club doesn't really work with my personality type. I just don't suffer fools gladly enough, nor should people have to suffer me. I'm old enough, I'm not going to change, and I just am not wired to stay above the fray.

In the past 3 years, I have, as an official officer and simply as a member of the Crestline Soaring Society:
- hosted at least a half dozen BBQs outta my own pocket

- assisted with 3 fly-ins

- completely hosted two (including one where I cooked for 125 people)

- organized trips to Big Sur, Dunlap, Mingus (though I couldn't go), and Funston (didn't fly, weather)

- attended officer meetings, often on non-flying days (i.e. spent time and gas just to make it)

- joined in on 3 work parties

- tried to deal with troublemakers.

That last one is the sticky wicket and the reason I am listing the work I've done. I want to point out that I'm trying hard to contribute, hopefully earning the right to rant a bit here (of course I can, it's my blog and hardly anyone reads it). There's a guy or two in the club that have really bristled at me when I've tried to implement safety rules or edit personal attacks off the forums.

It takes an almost Solomonic wisdom, respect of you by others (which I have some of, but I'm too much a loudmouth), and patience (which I will never have) to be a *good* volunteer for a member-driven hang gliding club.

Why is all that necessary? Hang glider and paraglider pilots are pretty strong willed individuals from all walks of life. They have a strong desire to fly, but not always a matching desire to do what it takes to help that happen. They also bristle at authority more than I think the non-flying population does, on average.

Why is authority necessary? Because of this thing called responsibility. The club is responsible for maintaining safe launches, safe landing zones, insurance, and good relations with governmental agencies.

If not enough step up and/or the don't-mess-with-me-I'm-just-here-to-fly-man sentiment prevails, you get a situation where you lose most everything and find yourself getting chased out of LZs by land owners, as has happened with a famous site... a site famous in part for the don't-mess-with-me sentiment (which I love, it's just not panning out).

If some step up and carry the burden, you get a great club. I will list a few from Crestline:
- The cornerstones (the McKenzies) have led with that Solomonic wisdom and Herculean strength (they deserve two metaphors). They have done so much more than their share, it's not even funny. Even as non-officers (Rob started stepping back after *decades* of carrying the load a few years ago and Dianne is on her last as site coordinator and fly-in coordinator), they will do more than most officers, just doing that which they see a need for on a daily basis.
- Another strong cornerstone, Owen Morse, has done more as a non-officer than most officers, as well.
- Ken Howells has been a standing board member for decades without a break, keeping the website, windtalker, and technology going (and being a strong, calm presence in disciplinary matters).
- Mike Zeller has not missed a work party in the three years I've been there and volunteers as a board member.
- Alan Crouse led the club through a couple of hard years dealing with development next door, all the time with a quiet class we will miss when he steps down at the end of the year.
- Mike Blakely and Megret Oleweiler also make many work parties, carry great loads at the fly ins, and contribute in their way board.
- Dusty and Cathy Rhodes do countless quiet, little things that add up to making them irreplaceable
- Mark Hoffman often shows and just does what needs doing
- Brent Landrum has done quite a bit for the club while staying at the LZ, mowing the lawn and helping out in general.
- Rebar Dan welded our shelves in the storage containers, make hook-in reminder signs, and led the Marshall Road clearing... because those things simply need doing.

Then you get the assholes, the guys who stick a finger in your eye when all you are trying to do is get the job done as well as you can. I'm not quitting as activities director because of them, there are other things I am hoping to do that will be bigger and better (and where I'll have to put up with less shit), but I'm not going to miss having to deal with the hecklers.

Here's a forum post where one of these assholes is giving us a hard time for trying to implement a helmet rule, which is hard because there is some question as to whether it's required by USHPA (turns out it is). No one likes telling a guy to put his helmet on, but someone has to be responsible and make sure we don't lose our insurance.

This jerk and I have a history and I just don't have it in me to ignore him. Obvious Troll is Obvious, but I'm not going to stop trying to kick him back under the bridge. Anyway, here's the thread. I am really looking forward to working on a project where I am not as susceptible to this kinda crap. I wish I were a bigger man... but I'm not, so I am going to refocus a bit.