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ChapterGram: April 2013

Chapter Spotlight: EAA Chapter 775 (Mountain Home, Arkansas)


Andrew Strong
EAA Chapter 775's 2012 Christmas Party

Pancake Breakfast
Guests at 775's pancake breakfast for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Open House
An aerial view of 775's open house at KFLP airport in support of the OK18 Wounded Warrior Project Fly-in.

This month we talked to Gerald Garrison, vice president and webmaster of EAA Chapter 775 in Mountain Home, Arkansas, to learn more about chapter life in the Ozark Mountains.

Who makes up your membership?

Our chapter has between 40 and 50 members, many of whom are retired military or commercial pilots. We have at least eight builders currently working on aircraft projects. We also have three members who are licensed A&Ps.

What has been your chapter's most successful fundraiser? Why?

Without a doubt, the part we were able to play in last year's OK18 Wounded Warrior Project Benefit Fly-in was our most successful fundraiser. Our participation enabled us to make a significant contribution to this worthwhile project and breathed new life and purpose back into our struggling chapter. Our chapter has taken on the challenge of making this year's fundraiser even more financially successful for the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as taking on an ambassadorship role for GA and our local airport.

Where is your chapter during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh? Do you do anything special?

Several of our members actively participate in AirVenture and have been doing so for many years. One member teaches in the Forums area. The rest of us stay home and wait for a report at our August meeting from those who were able to attend. I am thinking that what we believe we are seeing as a redirected focus at National may lead to an improvement in that situation, however.

If you were giving a "public tour" of your chapter, what stops would you make?

A "public tour" of our chapter, led by myself, would include an invitation to our pancake breakfast at the Valley Airport (61AR) and a stop by my strip at Thunder Ridge Ranch Airport (45AR) for anyone with a taste for sweet tea and homemade cookies, and who isn't tied to asphalt and/or concrete and is able to operate in and out of 2,200 feet with obstacles at each end. There are several other private airstrips in close proximity, owned or partially owned by members, that would also welcome drop-in visitors, but I'll have to let them extend their own visitor invitations.

What are some of the challenges your chapter faces?

Age, apathy, and lack of purpose, though not necessarily in that order. To a lesser extent, geographic dispersion and the lack of a youthful population to draw from are also challenges we face.

Is your membership growing, declining, or staying the same?

As late as two years ago, we discussed the option of surrendering our charter. Now, however, I'd say our membership and participation are rebounding, and we recruited several new members in 2011 and 2012. Several of us will be giving up our airplanes and independent flying this year, but hopefully that won't translate into a loss of chapter membership or participation.

How do you recruit and retain members?

We recruit new members wherever we can find them. The Tuesday mornings coffee social at Marion County Airport (FLP) has probably been our best source. Retaining members, and in particular, active members, has been somewhat problematic. Some of us will hang in there, no matter what, just because we have to be around airplanes. We're working toward having better and more interesting programs for our monthly meetings, pulling more members into active participation, and developing a meaningful purpose for the chapter. We're also looking to National for the kind of support foretold for the monthly Chapter Video Magazine.

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