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January 2004 President's Message By: Barbara Toy December 28, 2003 7:47PM PDT Views: 7840
By Barbara Toy
Welcome to 2004 – and I hope you and everyone dear to you had a really wonderful holiday season!
Before going to more weighty topics, I’d like to make a small disclaimer.When I wrote the introduction to the December PM, I had no idea just how cold it was going to be at the November Star Party – or, rather, how cold and windy!Dark, clear, STILL nights make great winter viewing.Add a bitterly cold hard wind – and that’s another story altogether!I’m hoping conditions will be better for the December party which, as I write this, is about a week away…
The OCA Election
If all goes well with the January Sirius Astronomer, you should be getting your ballot with your newsletter.If there are unexpected delays in spite of all of Steve Condrey’s efforts to keep things on track (which include an early deadline, so he can get it to the printer earlier than usual), you may get it in a separate mailing.If, for some reason, you don’t get it, you can download a copy from the website, and copies will be available at the January general meeting.
Directions for voting are on the ballot – please be sure to follow them, so you can be sure your votes will be counted.You can submit your ballot by mail before the January meeting (the address is on the ballot), or put it in the ballot box at the meeting itself.The deadline for voting is the day of the January meeting, and no ballot postmarked after on January 9 will be counted – so get your ballot in early!
The final list of candidates for the 2004 Board is:
Vice President:Dave Radosevich
Secretary: Bruce Crowe
Trustee:Bob Buchheim, Gary Schones, Tony Obra, Joel Harris, Craig Bobchin, Tom Kucharski, Bob Swifka and Stephen Eubanks
I’m sure that those of you who were at the December general meeting recall that Chris Butler generously volunteered to run for Vice President, as we did not have a candidate for that position.This was met with enthusiastic approval by everyone at the meeting, but, unfortunately, on further consideration of the many calls on his time and talents in the coming year (including his signature “What’s Up” talks for us), he realized that he wouldn’t be able to handle the duties of the position the way he felt they should be handled, and had to withdraw his name.I am delighted that Dave Radosevich, who has been a real asset to the Board as Trustee this last year, agreed to run for Vice President in his place, and I look forward to working with him next year – and to Chris’s continued “What’s Up”’s!
Russell Sipe and Tim Hogle Leaving the Board
Every year at this time we have to say a sad farewell to members who have decided that the time has come for them to leave the Board.This year, much to our regret, we are losing Russell Sipe and Tim Hogle.
Russ was president when I joined the club, and has been a wonderful resource during the three years that I’ve been on the Board.He has a very strong business background, as well as useful ties to such entities as Sky and Telescope magazine, and a lot of useful ideas – all of which have enriched the Board discussions of club issues.I have been particularly grateful for his advice and support while I’ve been president, which have helped tremendously as I’ve attempted to learn my job.He has taken on the job of website editor for the club, so he will definitely continue to be very involved in club affairs, even though it won’t be as a Board member.He also continues to welcome visitors to his observatory at Anza, especially on star party nights – which is a tremendous boon on a cold winter night, as his “warming room” is genuinely warm!
Tim joined the Board the same year I did, 2001, so we were newcomers together, but with very different backgrounds.He is a charter member of the club, and has often contributed a valuable historical perspective to our discussions in addition to a rare patience and attention to detail that has been carefully developed over the many years he has been on the Voyager team.While I have depended on Russ to help keep discussions focused and the meetings moving along, I have equally relied on Tim to be sure we didn’t overlook important aspects of issues under discussion or forget about matters that had been postponed for further consideration.Even though I know that both of them will be available for consultation if we need them, and they will both remain active in the club (and Tim will remain our representative to the WAA), I will really miss working with them both as Board members.
On the bright side, they’ve both said that they hope to serve on the Board again in the future – so hopefully we’ll see them back before too long!
The Beginners Class
One of the major educational services our club provides to the general public is our free “Beginners Class,” which has been developed and taught by Antonio Miro for the last several years.It’s a cycle of six sessions (so there are two complete cycles each year), and is almost always held on the first Friday of each month in the classroom behind the CentennialHeritageMuseum in Santa Ana.As one who has frequently attended the class to harass Antonio in the guise of giving him moral support, I can say from personal knowledge that he has done a wonderful job of developing the class and filling it with helpful information for the people who attend.It is very well attended, particularly considering its location and the fact that there isn’t any aggressive attempt to publicize it.
Antonio needs some help with the class, both in developing the curriculum and class materials and in teaching it.Change happens and, unfortunately, recent changes in his personal life mean that he no longer has the time that he had in the past to devote to the class.If you can help him out, or want more information about it, please contact Antonio (email@example.com or 714/898-9677) or me (firstname.lastname@example.org or 714/606-1825).
On the “Care and Feeding” of Volunteers…
You may have noticed that, while our records show that we have over 700 individual adult members of the club, there are only about 40 who regularly volunteer their time and energy to keep the club and its various facilities and functions going.Whenever we lose one of these people, it affects the functioning of the club and the morale of the remaining volunteers.We have seen many instances when changes in the personal lives of volunteers have forced them to spend less time on club activities or even give some activities up altogether – as I mentioned about the Beginners Class, change does happen.We expect it and do our best to deal with it when it happens.
A less obvious factor that costs us volunteers is burnout – which is less obvious because it’s rare for someone suffering burnout to give that as the reason for leaving a particular activity.By the time it’s clear to others that someone is having a burnout problem, it’s usually too late to do much to reverse the condition, though we try.
We usually associate burnout with people who take on too much and become overextended.From my experience, though, it happens more from frustration or lack of appreciation, often coupled with being overextended.While there can be many different causes of frustration, the ones I hear OCA volunteers complain about most often are thoughtlessness and lack of consideration from other club members – even though most of our members most of the time are very appreciative of what people do for the club and are very helpful.Since it appears at this point that, unless someone launches a successful write-in campaign or people fail to vote for any candidate for president at all, I will continue to be the person primarily responsible for dealing with the problems caused when volunteers have been pushed too far, I have to admit to a certain amount of self-interest in offering the following suggestions for reducing volunteer frustration – which I make to volunteers and non-volunteers alike:
1)We all have complaints at some point or other – it’s part of the human condition.When you find yourself complaining about someone or something in the club, please stop a moment and consider why you’re complaining.If you want to see something corrected, is the person you are complaining to a person who can make the correction or direct you to the person who can make the correction?If not, is the person you are complaining to someone who can check your perceptions about whether the condition needs correction and is that the reason you are complaining to that person?If not, are you making the complaint to that person because you need to vent and does the person you are complaining to know that the complaint is to go no further?If not – please don’t voice that complaint.There are few things more infuriating to a volunteer who has devoted time and energy to a particular area of responsibility than to hear from third parties that someone has been complaining about some aspect of what he or she is doing when that person has never raised it directly to the volunteer in question.And, please – don’t broadcast a complaint to a general forum, such as one of our email lists, even if you think that’s an efficient way to get the gripe to the responsible volunteer and even if you think the complaint in question is trivial and will cause no offense – trust me, it will offend.
2)If someone complains to you about someone or something in the club, please consider the reasons behind the complaint.Unless there is a very strong reason not to, please encourage the complainer to take the complaint directly to the responsible person.And, unless there’s a very strong reason why you should be the one to carry someone else’s complaint to the responsible person when the complainer won’t complain directly, please don’t, and please also refrain from sharing the fact that someone has this complaint with people other than those directly involved.In other words, don’t let yourself be made a carrier of discord by someone who lacks the courage or the courtesy to complain directly to the person who could actually do something about the complaint.
3)When you contact a responsible volunteer about an area of concern, please make a special effort to be courteous and diplomatic in conveying your concern.Above all, please do all you can to avoid an accusatory tone, even if you feel outraged by something someone has done or not done.Even the most compassionate and fair-minded person gets defensive under attack, heels dig in, opinions become entrenched, and your chances of getting a good resolution to your problem drop through the floor.
4)If you complain about something to the person responsible, please don’t assume that this automatically means that whatever problem you have identified will be resolved on the terms you suggest.If the issue is something like a correction of information on the website or something else that’s relatively easy and unambiguous, most likely it will get done, but not until the responsible volunteer has time to do it.If you were told in response to your complaint that something specific would be done but you don’t see the change after a reasonable period, a diplomatic follow-up is certainly in order – perhaps your issue got lost in a deluge of other matters, or (especially if you raised it where there would be a delay before anything could be done about it) it was simply forgotten.If you talk to a volunteer about something and that person asks you to send a reminder email or otherwise bring it to their attention later on, please do that (e.g. during the general meetings a lot of people ask me to email them information or to check on various things – I’m happy to do it, but I can guarantee you that I won’t remember who I promised what to after the meeting, so a follow-up email is an absolute necessity for anyone who really wants what was asked for).
5)When dealing with club matters, please keep in mind that everything done by or for the club is done by volunteers, through the donation of their time, energy, expertise, imagination, and (frequently) materials and tools.Please treat them with even more consideration than you would show an employee, co-worker or even your doctor or accountant (I won’t say “relative” – too often relatives get no consideration at all!).
To all of you who take the time to express your appreciation to the people who keep the club going for what they do – thank you.And, for all of you volunteers out there who have made and continue to make this club the wonderful organization it is – thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do.
Certain people have commented to me about the length of these messages.Well, I’m of a profession that has its own unique definition of the term “brief”…But, please, don’t let this message get between you and any of the genuine content in this newsletter!My standing instruction to the editor is, if there’s not enough room for the PM and all the genuine content that’s been submitted, the PM gets cut (that’s one reason for having separate sections).However – if we’re short on content, a longer PM helps fill the gaps.
So, there’s an easy way to save us all from overly long PMs – get those articles you’ve been thinking about down on paper!Send in your pictures!Flood Steve with content!