Editor's Note: These comments on National Volunteer Week are based in part on Jack's column in this month's issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
April 10, 2014 - As I mentioned in this month's EAA Sport Aviation, I have been very fortunate to win some awards and be honored by various groups over the years, but I can tell you that nothing has been more gratifying and meaningful for Rose and me than being named EAA Volunteers of the Year last summer at Oshkosh.
It was rewarding to us because we are part of such a large group of volunteers so big and so dedicated that without them, everything that happens within EAA and AirVenture would not be possible. Actually, I should say would not be possible without you, because so many EAA members volunteer in one way or another.
This week is National Volunteer Week, part of National Volunteer Month in April, which has been annually recognized by U.S. presidents since 1974. President George H.W. Bush was one of the greatest supporters of Americans volunteering for all manner of charitable initiatives. During his term he helped to create the Points of Light Foundation to honor volunteers who go over and above in their efforts. I think of that when I'm working at EAA headquarters and see the photos of his visit to EAA and Oshkosh when he was Vice President in the 1980s. Mr. Bush is, of course, a combat veteran pilot, and his "thousand points of light" speeches were more than just the usual political rhetoric.
National Volunteer Month and Week are a means to give special thanks to all volunteers. Recognizing the endless good volunteers do in America is something we should do every week and every month, but that doesn't always happen. The reason is that so many volunteers do their work quietly, not drawing attention to themselves. That is certainly true here at EAA. It would be impossible to host our big annual convention and fly-in at Oshkosh every summer without the many thousands of volunteers who pitch in. And I thank each of you. But volunteering is not just a one-week effort for EAA members. Our volunteers perform essential tasks year-round.
For example, as signs of spring just begin to appear in Oshkosh, groups of volunteers arrive to begin the enormous task of preparing the grounds for AirVenture. There is so much to be done to shake off winter wear and tear, and to improve our vast facilities.
EAA volunteers work with our staff to form organizations for specific tasks, select chairs and other group leaders, and identify what needs to be done and how best to do it. Volunteers bring years of experience and knowledge of how EAA and Oshkosh operate that is irreplaceable.
We have subject experts, such as our homebuilt technical advisors, medical council, and warbird and antique restoration experts, who all volunteer to help keep EAA members and their aircraft flying. There are also volunteers who give their time and skills in non-aviation areas such as carpentry, electrical work, and more that are essential to keep AirVenture and EAA functioning.
EAA has a volunteer opportunity for every member to use their experience and skills. Over the years many EAA chapters have focused on specific volunteer tasks in their own communities and at Oshkosh. We need and appreciate each and every one of you. In April's EAA Sport Aviation, there is more about EAA volunteer opportunities and just a few of our fellow members who have made extraordinary efforts.
Again, Rose and I thank you so much for the very special honor presented to us last year. And on behalf of your board of directors - who also volunteer so many hours to guide EAA through very difficult times in personal aviation -I say thank you, EAA volunteers. April is the officially designated time to recognize volunteers, but it heightens the gratitude we feel for your efforts year-round.