|Telephone Pioneers Still Answering the Call for Help
By Heather Peterson
CEDAR CREEK LAKE-Community service, a responsibility long reserved for girl scouts and jail birds, has been undertaken for years by an almost totally unrecognized group.
The Cedar Creek Lake area has long been the recipient of good deeds performed by a local nonprofit organization and yet, if asked about the Telephone Pioneers, few people would be able to respond.
The national creed is something this group takes very seriously: "Answering the call of those in need."
Each year, the club picks a new project to keep as its main focus, whether it be celebrating nursing home birthday parties, or volunteering for and donating to the Kaufman County Emergency Children's Shelter.
However, they never forget the goal the club was founded on: repairing talking book machines for the Library of Congress to be sent to those who are visually-impaired.
"I think it's the best kept secret in the world," said Betty Cox, three-time president for the group. "There [are] not a large number of people that know what we do. We just keep trying."
In the early eighties, the Cedar Creek area was new and flooded with people in search of a place to retire.
In 1984, a handful of these retirees that had been involved in the growing telephone industry came together to form a local union of the Telephone Pioneers.
The 22-year-old club has done much since then, but received little recognition.
Cox and Joyce Pharr, official photographer, hope to change that and recruit more volunteers from the community to join its efforts.
This national organization dates back to 1911.
Theodore N. Vail (then president of AT&T) and Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone) and then Bell employee Henry W. Pope, founded the organization to help meet the needs of the mentally and physically handicapped, especially the hearing-impaired.
It was formed for active and retired Bell employees by the company that grew leaps and bounds throughout the 20th century.
To date, the organization claims 850,000 members who contribute about 30 million hours of community service a year and raise between $25 million and $30 million a year.
It is the largest industry-related community service organization in the world.
"Ma Bell took care of its people and in turn its people were encouraged to help others," Pharr explained. "There's a place for everyone."
Cox tells how one local member was helped by the group.
Inez Kohls had been bringing two young granddaughters to the group's meetings.
All the Pioneers considered them their own, especially when they fell sick and required kidney transplants.
The group spent an entire year raising funds to help pay expenses not covered by the family's health plan.
Both girls are now completely healthy.
The group has about 300 members, and they never have problems finding something to keep them busy.
"We cover a lot of territory" Cox said about their schedule, which includes everything from the Adopt-a-Highway program to stocking the Rainbow Room with items for children in transition, to 9-1-1 education.
They also boast being the only club in the nation to actually own their own property as headquarters.
Purchased in July, 1989, the group took permanent possession of 111 Luther Lane, in Gun Barrel City.
Soon afterward, the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company donated three buildings which were moved onto the grounds and refurbished.
"I am really proud of it." Cox said.
Community service remains the driving force behind any successful society.
Without people willing to dedicate their time, energy, and experience to such gracious tasks, our community would not be the same.
The lack of recognition does not seem to affect them in the least.
"I'm very proud to be a pioneer." Cox said.
For more information or to volunteer, call (903)498-2083.