By Cherie Ilg Haas
Do you know how long the Northern Lights have been around? Thousands or millions of years, perhaps? Try 10. But I’m not talking about the aurora borealis — I mean the Northern Lights chapter of FMCA.
Ten years ago FMCA members Bob Korb, F116983, and Don McMillan, F128352, both of Traverse City, Michigan, were having coffee while discussing ham radio, just like they’d been doing regularly for about a year. Neither had realized that the other was also a motorhomer, for the subject never came up. But on this particular day, Bob happened to look out the restaurant window and notice a tow bar on Don’s Jeep. “Gosh, I never knew you had a motorhome,” he said to Don. The first light was sparked.
Their conversation naturally drifted to FMCA, the abundance of “goose eggs” (FMCA membership emblems) around town, and the need for a local chapter. They agreed that forming a chapter was a good idea, and they knew others who might also want to join. After that first discussion, “One thing led to another,” Bob said. Invitations to join this new chapter were sent to FMCA members who lived in specific zip codes in the region. Bob’s wife, Mary Lou, said that they had no idea how many folks would show up at the first meeting, but there were enough to form the Northern Lights chapter.
One of the next steps was to figure out who would fill the officers’ positions. This discussion was also held at a restaurant, with Bob, Mary Lou, Don, and Don’s late wife, Helen, in attendance. At the time, Mary Lou didn’t want to be a part of the chapter formation. “I was not for this at all; I’m not a committee person,” she said. But when she stepped away from the table, the others voted to make her chapter secretary. When she returned to the table, and after conversation you can imagine for yourself, Helen took the position for her. Ironically, since then, Mary Lou has served as none other than chapter president.
In the chapter’s early years, rallies were a little different than they are now. “We would’ve been happy to go to a state park and grill hot dogs,” Bob said. Now the rallies vary each year to keep the program interesting, he said. Members are encouraged to provide feedback about where they’d like to go for rallies. They sometimes attend festivals, or take tours, such as a recent 10-day motorhome trip around Lake Superior. The rallies are set up so that members can pursue a variety of activities while there, and if someone wants to go off and do something else, they can.
However, members meet throughout the rally for fellowship. “We try to get people together a couple of times a day for coffee and doughnuts or a potluck,” Bob said. “That way, you get to know them.” They also gather on the last morning of the rally for the hugs and good-byes, he added. Like many chapters, Mary Lou said, this one is like an extended family. “It’s a great group of people,” she said, “We’ve made a lot of friends.”
All FMCA members within northern Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula, are invited to join the Northern Lights. Bob said they also have members outside of their scope. “Northern Lights is just one big family chapter, and yet we’re all over the country.” From drinking coffee over ham radio discussions to enjoying coffee under their coach awnings, Don and Bob have contributed to a successful chapter. Bob Webber, F195002, the chapter newsletter editor, summed up the chapter’s essence when he said, “They just have a heck of a good time.”
If you’d like to join the Northern Lights, contact FMCA’s Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-3622.