Since 2004, the Lewes Amateur Radio Society has been embracing and promoting short-wave communication in the Lewes community and beyond.

What was a five-member group of local amateur radio operators at its inception has expanded to 41.

The group meets over the airwaves on a weekly basis when there's no in-person meeting scheduled. Amateur radio operators are licensed by the federal government and are given codes to identify themselves.

"It's a very diverse group and they're a hoot to be with," member Mike McClanahan said, adding that the members, while mostly retired, have been involved in numerous industries.

McClanahan, or W3RMM, has had his license since the mid-1950s and is still amazed by it.

"It's the awe of being able to converse with people around the world without picking up the phone or spending a lot of money," he said. "It's a neat hobby. It's just fun, it really is."

LARS president Richard Drevo, who goes by W3GNQ, said he got his amateur radio license in 1956 and still goes to his radio to communicate with others on a regular basis.

He said he regularly talks with people from England, Germany and a number of western European countries. Just the other day he was able to touch base with someone in the United Arab Emirates.

"A lot of people just like to get on the air and talk," he said. "I think it's quite amazing that ... we can talk around the world."

Most conversations over the airwaves deal with everyday topics, such as the weather and the equipment being used by the operator, members said.

Former Lewes deputy mayor and councilman Jim Ippolito, or KB3IOG, is another founding member of LARS and has been a licensed amateur radio operator since 2002.

"It's a good hobby for someone who is getting on in age and is more homebound," he said. "You're never lonely, there's always someone to talk to."

He has been able to connect with people from 85 countries, including Australia, China and India.

"It gets you out of your community and literally gives you a world view," he said. "It's just as exciting to talk to someone in the state of Maryland on the radio. It all has a certain magic to it."

In addition to making connections around the world, LARS also makes an impact in the local community.

In 2005, the Lewes Radio Amateurs Civilian Emergency Service was formed as an additional source of communication in case of an emergency or natural disaster. Its membership includes LARS members.

McClanahan said he formed Lewes RACES because, as a former firefighter, he knew how valuable the communication tool could be.

"I felt it was a means we could use a hobby to provide a service to the community," he said.

While RACES hasn't been activated yet, the group practices periodically in case they are needed; the group can be called upon by the mayor at any given time.

If it does get activated, the group would be able to take messages and send them to the appropriate authorities, such as the Red Cross, FEMA or the armed forces.

"It ensures your community has a group of professional communicators who are able to communicate even in the worse type of conditions," Ippolito said. "It gives the community one more level of assurance if there's disaster."

Additionally, the group does outreach events at schools and with local community groups to spread awareness of the hobby.

The group meets in person at noon on the first Wednesday of the month at The Green Turtle Sports Bar & Grill in Five Points.



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