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Tim Yanni
Volunteers prepare food packages for the Greater Boston Food Bank during the Telecom Pioneers 100th anniversary events in Boston.

BOSTON – In the city where their service organization was founded, the Telecom Pioneers met Nov. 3-5 to celebrate 100 years of offering fellowship, loyalty and service.

The centennial celebration, which featured a gathering of Pioneers from across the country, saw hundreds of pioneers participating in service projects, formal meetings, and a dinner gala and dance to cap the three-day celebration in the unofficial capital of New England.

Brandy Dyches of South Jordan, Utah, a long-time Pioneer and the centennial event's Utah representative from the Mountain Plains chapter and the Snow, Sea and Canyons club which represents Utah and other western states, made the nearly 5,000-mile round trip to offer her services, to participate in organization meetings and to spend a little time enjoying the history of the city that was settled some 146 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

“It's nice that we were able to come together in the city where the Pioneers were founded,” Dyches said. “I've been to a lot of Pioneers conferences in places like Orlando, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, but there's something to be said for getting together in the city where it all began.”

The Pioneers were founded by AT&T as an organization to participate in service projects, fundraising, and community assistance. Now, the Pioneers have expanded and are represented nationally by telephone companies across the country. Locally, Pioneers from Century Link participate in service projects at underprivileged schools and needy areas across the Wasatch Front.

Dyches was employed by AT&T and remained the club's president after the Murray AT&T office closed and her job was transferred to a different office. She has been part of the Pioneers since 1995 and says that being laid off from AT&T did not sway her to abandon the organization: "For me, it wasn't about being an AT&T employee,” she said.

She added that a lot of Pioneers did stop participating when the local office was closed, but that to her, that would be unfairly punishing those in need.

“I've always believed that everyone should do some kind of service," she said. "This is how I choose to do that.”

Don Campman of Phoenix is the vice president of the Snow, Sea, and Canyons club. He has been involved with pioneering for over 20 years. In fact, his most recent service project was a trip to Salt Lake City where he joined with Dyches to donate $500 of their chapter's funds toward non-perishable food items to the Utah Food Bank.

They also donated some 200 backpacks filled with school supplies, toys, and reading materials to the food bank. All the items were distributed to children attending low-income schools in Rose Park and other needy areas in the Salt Lake Valley.

The service project the Pioneers assisted with in Massachussets involved filling baskets and bags of food for the Greater Boston Food Bank.

“I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to help the kids in Utah, in Boston, and everywhere we go," Campman said. "And it is nice to be here in Boston to celebrate 100 years of Pioneering. We're surrounded by people who do a lot of good things for a lot of people. When everyone gets together like this, it creates a really positive atmosphere and I don't think anyone would feel uncomfortable spending a little time with people who volunteer their time and raise money to accomplish such great things.”

Campman is now retired from AT&T, as are many of the Pioneers. Current and retired employees from telephone companies such as Verizon, SakskTel, BellAliant and others, are encouraged by their companies to offer their services. However, all of the hours offered by participants are volunteer hours.

“The face of telecommunications is changing,” Campman said, referring to the the communication industry being changed by the Internet and mobile communications. “No one knows whether Pioneering will be around for another 100 years. But we're proud that we made it to the first 100 and I think everyone can agree that whether Pioneering continues or not, it will always be important for citizens to volunteer their time, money or talents to help those who are less fortunate.”

The link for the Pioneers website is: http://www.pioneersvolunteer.org/