Telephone Pioneers of America was founded in Boston at a meeting at the Somerset Hotel. The first membership paper proposing the formation of the Bell System Telephone Pioneers had been circulated by Henry Pope, Charles Truex and Thomas Doolittle in 1910. In attendance at the 1911 Boston meeting were 244 founding members including Alexander Graham Bell. The major goals were to perpetuate the ideals and traditions of the industry and promote the fellowships that were formed as a natural result of their teamwork. Dues were fixed at $5 for the first year and $2 for each thereafter. Membership was initially reserved for employees having 21 years of service in the telephone industry.
Members wanted local activities. Since there was no provision for fraternal contact other than at annual Association meetings, groups of Pioneers petitioned the Association executive committee for permission to organize chapters. The first 12 Pioneers chapters were chartered.
Life Member classification was established and in 1935, the first Life member club was formed in the Charles Fleetford Sise Chapter, Canada.
The Pioneers General Assembly adopted a plan to divide the Association into 17 sections along company lines.
The Association territory is realigned into 12 sections.
First “Pioneer Week” proclaimed by Governor Lausche of Ohio.
It was officially declared at the Pioneers General Assembly in Chicago, IL that community service was part of Pioneers mission. Many initial Pioneers activities centered around putting the skills of the membership to work in meeting the needs of the disabled, particularly the hearing-impaired.
Pioneers began to repair “Talking Book” machines for the visually disabled in collaboration with the National Library of Congress/CNIB.
Charlie Fairbanks invents the beeping baseball which marks the beginning of baseball for the visually impaired and blind athletes through the National Beep Baseball Association, a Pioneers project partner. The Pioneers continue to fit a regulation 16-inch softball and equip it with a specially designed rechargeable beeping device. The development of the beeping baseball will eventually lead Pioneers to develop and manufacture the beeping Easter egg for visually impaired children. In 2009, Pioneers provided beeping eggs for the annual White House Easter egg hunt.
The first International Telephone Pioneers Family Campers campout held in Kitchener, Ontario.
The original Pioneers Hug-a-Bear rolled of the Pioneers assembly line and into the arms of ailing children in hospitals. Additions to the family have included Smart Bear, who comes complete with a children’s book and Buckles, the Safety Bear, who is used to teach children the value of wearing a seatbelt. Pioneers keep police, fire and emergency units stocked with these hand-made bears to be used when children are involved in traumatic situations. Pioneers continue to sew bears today as well as Heart Pillows which are designed to aid patients recovering from heart surgery.
Pioneers start making Hand-Operated Tricycles (HOT Trikes) provided at no cost to children who have limited or no use of their legs.
Pioneers participate in the Olympics Games torch relay.
Pioneers participate in the first Santa Goodwill trip abroad.
The service requirement for membership is eliminated. Membership in the Pioneers was initially limited to those with 21 years of industry service, a standard that stood for 53 years and fellowship was the order of the day.
Pioneers begins a project partnership with Junior Achievement and signs a Memorandum of Cooperation with Industry Canada on the award-winning Computers for Schools program. Pioneers also becomes one of the first organizations to sign a working partnership agreement with the Department of Education.
Telecom Pioneers formally shortens its name to Pioneers and adopts a new brand to reflect how Pioneers volunteers spark change in their local communities.
Pioneers volunteer 15 million hours of service moving those in need from adversity to achievement. With 620,000 AT&T Pioneers, Verizon Pioneers, FairPoint Pioneers, Telcordia Pioneers, Qwest Pioneers, Canadian Pioneers, Bell Aliant Pioneers, SaskTel Pioneers, Frontier Pioneers and self sponsored New Outlook Pioneers representing 82 chapters, Pioneers remains the largest industry-related volunteer organization.
Pioneers is recognized for its 50 year commitment to the Talking Book Repairs program by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.
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