Whether front line or behind the scenes, volunteers have had an even greater impact than usual during the coronavirus pandemic. How they have risen to the challenges, additional training, safety protocols, and adjustments to the daily routine is both inspiring and humbling.
There was a moment that particularly impressed me. After experiencing our first shut-down since opening in 2012, and restrictions were lifted enough to allow us to open for exterior tours and to resume more than merely the most critical of operations pertaining to ship’s maintenance, a call went out to the volunteers that we were offering mandatory safety training for those wishing to return on a limited basis. I was flooded with responses. The vast majority of active volunteers took the training and have to some degree returned for duty. Others, for personal or health reasons, have wisely opted to sit things out for the time being. We support each individual’s choices and encourage their health and safety above all. Nonetheless, roughly two thirds of our crew returned. This is a testament to the strength of our community.
Some never left! I want to give a shout out to our outstanding security crew who maintained a positive and professional presence every day during the shut-down and continue to do so with grace and humor– not to mention bicycles and banjos.
There are so many who have given so much I hesitate to name names, but there are a few standouts who have been particularly helpful:
- David DeMoss of the Security Department for holding down the fort during many of the bleakest days;
- John Pakusich for doing double duty in both the Ops and Tour departments, upping his game in a time of need;
- Doug Dowds and the BIARA (Battleship IOWA Amateur Radio Association) crew for organizing and managing robust radio operations remotely;
- Gary Lopes and the IET/GRG crew (just think of them as the electronics wizards) for supporting those efforts and moving forward with technical communications equipment restorations;
- Chris Barker for interpretive planning for a future communications tour;
- Neil Stoddard for spearheading and running with the Crew Profiles project;
- Dave Zisovic for stepping up to cover needs in the Tour Department;
- Len Jablon for also covering Tour as well as ticketing and merchandise sales – far more complicated than it sounds!
Periodically we celebrate crew members who have reached the milestone of 1,000 volunteer hours or greater. A crew member who has accrued that many hours receives a handsome embroidered jacket, which is presented to him or her during a ceremony that includes the privilege of ringing IOWA’s bell.
Saturday, Oct 17 marked the first time we’ve been able to hold this celebration since the start of COVID. It was wonderful to see the foredeck full of happy, physically distanced faces.
VOLUNTEER / CREW MEMBER OF THE QUARTER
This award was made to Jim Ohr for his ongoing extraordinary contribution to the Pacific Battleship Center and USS IOWA BB61.
Jim was recommended overwhelmingly by his peers, who all agreed that this recognition is well deserved and long overdue. In their words Jim:
- Brings a wealth of experience, competence, grace and a delightful sense of humor to the ship operations department.
- Is calm, determined, and stubborn in a good way – in that he won’t let a problem or a challenge get the better of him. He seems to be able to fix almost anything.
- Understands not only mechanical, electrical, HVAC and chill-water systems, but has the rare gift of also understanding people and how to extend and share his knowledge, grace and humor in ways that bring a smile.
- Extends his love and respect for the ship and the crew in ways that go above and beyond all expectation, including saving another crew member’s life by performing CPR in an emergency situation.
- Has been an integral part of the Battleship IOWA family since 2013 and has donated over 3000 hours of volunteer service.
- Is always willing and able to help whenever and wherever needed, with a smile, and in support of any department. He embodies the ideal of One Ship, One Crew, One Mission.
- Always greets and has a kind word for guests, and takes the time to answer all of their questions, making them feel like part of the ship, and inviting them back.
- Is a safe and experienced leader who can plan and communicate complex issues in ways that are easy to understand and execute.
- Has tackled many critically important and difficult projects often utilizing his own tools and resources that might not otherwise be available to the ship.
One shipmate summed it up like this: “I think that any crew member who even remotely knows Jim also knows how much he cares about the ship and her crew…(He) is the type of person you want to volunteer with. I’m always happy when I see he’s aboard. So is everyone else…it’s truly an honor to nominate him…”
We couldn’t agree more.