By Dave Churilla

On Tuesday, March 12, 2002 the Hyde Volunteers Appreciation Dinner was held. This event is held annually as a way to thank those who have volunteered their time and efforts to Hyde Memorial Observatory During the past year.

As most of you know this year in November is Hyde’s 25th Anniversary. In that time Hyde has opened every Saturday night for the public to not only view the skies through the Telescopes, but to learn more about space and astronomy from the Volunteers staffing the facility during those evenings. Never has a fee been charged for these public nights, or the group reservations during the week, many of which are elementary school classes and scouting groups. I think this is a remarkable achievement and all the volunteers throughout the history of Hyde are to be commended.

This year’s Volunteer Appreciation Dinner was held at Mueller Planetarium and was attended by 22 people. Thanks go out to Jack Dunn, our gracious host. Dinner was catered by Valentino’s and included pizza, lasagna, pasta primevera, breadsticks and pop. Thanks to Holly who made brownies and some sort of Rock Road dessert that one could die for.

After dinner a short presentation was held which included the presentation of the Volunteer of the Year Award for 2001 by Hyde Board Chairperson Erik Hubl. As the Hyde Board’s Volunteer Coordinator it’s been very difficult for me to really nominate a few individuals because all the Volunteers work so hard. All the volunteers deserve an award for their efforts. This year it came down to 2 individuals and the Board decided to give the award to both. Congratulations to Brian Sivill and AJ Benker for being selected Volunteers of the Year for 2001. They each received a certificate and their names will be placed on the plaque in the Foyer at Hyde.

To top off the night Jack treated us to the Planetarium Show Sky Quest and those who wanted to stay watched a SCI FI spoof called Dark Star. It was a very enjoyable evening shared with friends.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the Volunteers. They have answered every call I’ve put out to work at Special Reservations as well as at the Special Events I organized last year. They are a great bunch of people who thankfully are dedicated to the concepts and philosophy of Hyde. We are all volunteers, so most of our thanks comes from seeing a packed house at Hyde, and the satisfaction of knowing that those who came to the Observatory left enjoying a wonderful experience in Astronomy and perhaps a little more knowledgeable about the science and the universe. These Volunteers do an excellent job of interacting with the public and taking responsibility to be at Hyde when they are needed.

You know, you don’t have to have a Ph.D. in Astronomy to be a volunteer. Many of our Volunteers admittedly know very little if anything about the objects that are in the telescopes. Some know a lot about the objects or about astronomy/physics, but have trouble finding objects. We have a Deck manual that has information and star charts about the various objects we usually view at Hyde that will help you and every volunteer is more than willing to teach you. Soon we will be advertising a schedule of monthly events at Hyde. We need more volunteers to help out and to work on Public Nights. With a few more Volunteers you wouldn’t have to work more than once every 6-8 weeks except if you want to, or if you help with the special events. In addition, in the coming months I will be asking PAC members to bring the telescopes to Hyde for various special events for the public to view through. These events give the public more opportunities to view different kinds of objects plus they help to promote Hyde. This year, they will also lead up to our 25th anniversary activities as we near November.

So, if you’ve wondered about Volunteering, stop wondering and contact me. While sometimes it can be a lot of work, it really is a lot of fun and very rewarding. Plus, you could be helping to build on the tradition of education and public observing that is the legacy of Hyde.