Pastor uses hobby of more than 25 years to help others (July 15, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Pastor uses hobby of more than 25 years to help others

July 15, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0111}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

MOORE HAVEN — The Rev. Thom Street never suspected his love of amateur radio could be relayed into saving lives.

MOOREHAVEN Jayson Street, left, demonstrates amateur radio to children during the American Radio Relay League Kids Day event at First United Methodist Church here last month. Jayson and his father, the Rev. Thom Street, pastor of the church, started Glades County's Amateur Radio Civil Emergency Services and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services when they moved to the area in June 2003. Photo by the Rev. Thom Street, Photo #04-0044.

Street, pastor of First United Methodist Church here, and his son, Jayson, had planned to register with the Amateur Radio Civil Emergency Services and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services at the Glades County Office of Emergency Management when they moved to the county in June 2003. They were surprised to learn the county didn't offer those services, so the duo did the next best thing to joining—they started the organizations for the county.

Both groups are critical to a county's emergency services. The Amateur Radio Civil Emergency Services is supported by the American Radio Relay League and provides communication for small-scale emergencies. The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services is part of the Department of Homeland Security under the Federal Emergency Management Agency and provides communication during large-scale disasters.

Street's hard work to create the organizations didn't go unnoticed. He was appointed the county's emergency coordinator by the American Radio Relay League and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services officer by the Glades County Emergency Management.

Now that the organizations are up and running Street is working to assemble and train a group of amateur radio operators. He has 10 volunteers so far and hopes to increase those numbers in the coming months. He said it's easy to get started.

"You can get started with less than $100 or spend as much as thousands," said Street, who became an amateur radio operator 25 years ago and emergency amateur radio operator 15 years ago. "It's low-tech and easy to set up. You can do it from home. A friend got me started years ago, but I never thought it would turn into something practical," he said.

It was not only practical, but useful for Street when he lived in Collier County during Hurricane Andrew. When telephone lines and cellular towers were disabled Street was able to contact authorities and inform them of the area's needs and family members of residents who had no other form of communication.

"It was tremendously rewarding to me to be able to help," he said. "It brings about a sense of relief to someone to be able to help them. It was quite an experience."

The experiences are mounting for Street. Earlier this year both of his groups provided communication for a strategic national stockpile exercise. The scenario was designed to simulate circumstances a bio-terrorism attack would produce.

Street said both amateur voice and digital communication modes were used to transmit information from headquarters to units in the field. He said it's important for the organizations to practice so they are prepared in the event of a real disaster.

While always prepared for the worst Street said the organizations' members enjoy the lighter moments of communicating with other amateur radio operators around the world.

"It's a great hobby," he said. "You can talk to people in different parts of the world. You never know who is on. At any time I can talk to someone in Japan, Saudi Arabia or Europe."

Street is now concentrating on getting more Glades County residents involved. He helped introduce children to the world of amateur radio last month by enabling the American Radio Relay League to hold Kids Day at his church. He said only four children attended, but he has high hopes of bringing amateur radio to the masses.

"We have primarily 80 percent older people involved," Street said. "We'd like to get some younger people involved. It's been tough getting people interested. We want people to get involved because it's just a great hobby and it's helpful."


This article relates to Missions and Outreach.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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