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SAARA’s goal will continue through fund

SALEM — The Salem Area Amateur Radio Association (SAARA) may have signed off for good, but the group’s mission to promote ham radio communications in the Salem area will continue.

That’s because the members chose to establish a Salem Area Amateur Radio Association Fund through the Salem Community Foundation with their remaining cash after disbanding.

“The idea is to advance amateur radio and emergency communications,” SAARA President David Sprouse said.

Past members, their family members and others interested in ham radio communications can donate to the fund in someone’s memory to help it grow.

Donations can be sent to the Salem Community Foundation, P.O. Box 553, Salem, Ohio 44460, specify for the Salem Area Amateur Radio Association Fund, or call the SCF office at 330-332-4021.

“The fund will go on into perpetuity — forever,” SCF Grant Coordinator Melissa Costa said, noting the SAARA members wanted the group’s legacy to live on.

Costa explained that the annual interest income for the fund will provide amateur radio activities, materials, equipment, training and/or information in Columbiana County and locations within a 15-mile radius of Salem. Once the fund builds up, if there’s a need for training or equipment, an organization can apply for a grant that falls under those guidelines.

The threshold for starting a fund is $5,000 and the SAARA had just enough to get started.

According to Costa, Church Women United of Salem made a similar move when it disbanded, creating a fund to help continue the back-to-school voucher program for Salem students started many years ago. She said the dollars in that fund have helped the Brightside Project to continue the back-to-school voucher program for students to get clothing and shoes before school starts.

She said the foundation is a great way for those organizations to keep going. Families who want to memorialize their past loved ones can start funds to help with scholarships for students or grants for the community, such as the parks.

Sprouse said SAARA started in May 1987, meeting at the home of Bob Tullis, another past president and member. The group used to teach classes and give exams for entry-level licenses for ham radio operators and provided communications during disasters, emergencies and community events, such as parades, walk-a-thons and bike races. The group also used to hold field days in the parks to introduce the public to ham radio operations.

With aging and low membership, the few members left decided it would be best to dissolve and start the fund so people in the Salem area could still benefit from ham radio communications.

“I hope they remember us for what we’ve done over the years,” Sprouse said.

When there’s a need for ham radio operators, some of them will still be available. Tullis said when he was young, there was a group called the Quaker Radio Association. Then along came SAARA.

“Believe it or not, there are a lot of hams in Salem,” Tullis said, adding “SAARA leaves a legacy. We’ve had a lot of people go to our classes and graduate, taught and licensed. We gave a lot of people a good experience with ham radios.”

Hearing your own call sign over the airwaves while communicating with people all over the world can be thrilling, he said. In this world of cell phones and the Internet, if all fails, there’s still ham radio for communication. There’s even one at the hospital, just in case.

Both he and Sprouse credited former member Ginger Grilli with the idea of setting up the fund. Tullis said SAARA member Lela McClaren made a donation in memory of her late husband, Bill, and others can also make donations.

The group sold some of their equipment to put toward the fund, but also donated some equipment to an amateur radio group in Lisbon which is still active.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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