Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why is my annual OA dues renewal letter so late?

Since I took over the voluntary position of adviser to the Membership Committee of Nentico Lodge, I've learned a lot about mailing. Maybe I learned things that I would rather not have known, but I've had to in order to assist getting membership renewals delivered. Since one just arrived today for my son (mine was paid for via the Golden Ticket), I figured it was time to review the steps. Next year we'll do better, I hope.

My training began prior to the LLDC in December 2010, but that was more or less my formal start of the role. We talked about OA LodgeMaster quite a bit, and not so much about the dues process. At that point, I knew we needed to draft a letter, prepare a mailing list, and that was about it. I wasn't thinking about envelopes, postal meters, or much else yet to be revealed.


Harry sent me various forms of the Lodge letterhead, as he has the originals and it didn't make sense for me to scan anything. I thought it would be good to avoid any printing where the masthead or any other boilerplate text is already.


Tony sent me the contact person for the mailing house. In subsequent days, I talked to the person about the process, what format they needed the letter and mailing list in, and other steps that needed to occur. I sent later emails and left voice messages, which stopped being returned. That was strange, but what did I know?


Tyler and I worked on the language of the letter, trying to include updates about recording emails, and fitting everything into place.


Tyler, Harry and others reviewed the draft letter, moving things around to make it work


I met with Eric and Casey to go over the money and resource side of this; Eric said he could set up onlines dues payments. I was a little leery of changing the letter, thinking it was going to go out in a few days, and we had not tested dues collection or reporting.


Tony gave me more instructions on producing the mailing list, and other tips on the process, such as where the envelopes were, or should be. Then it was Christmas, and I stopped working on this until after the New Year.


Bob and Tony and I corresponded about where the dues letters were. I thought we just needed to do a few more things and they would be sent out shortly.


I started working with a new contact from the mailing house, after learning the previous contact was gone late in December. We went over what they had, what they needed, and what I needed to do.


I worked with Joe and Casey on topping off the postage meter, based on the number of letters and the non-profit rate we've always used.


The mailing house found 4 addresses with forwarding instructions in the US system; I found new addresses from ScoutNet. They said changing these would be a re-work charge, so I said never mind.


The mailing house sent images "for approval" of the letter, and the envelope. After reviewing it, I found some fields were not lining up as my document had them


I sent back the revised instructions and the mailing house updated the letter so that data fields were correct.


We sent a mass email to Lodge members, telling them dues renewals would be mailed out soon. Fewer than 100 bounced. The online dues renewal was not quite ready, but we've gotten about 20 as of the end of January.


The online dues renewal was ready. A few folks tried it out.


One set of envelopes was ready for pickup. I drove a set down to the mailing house.


The postal meter funds were ready, but the mailing house needed 1000 more envelopes, as they miscounted their stock.


Big surprise - the mailing house postal clerk said that the letter can't be sent under a non-profit stamp since the content included personal information. After much back and forth, we realized this was strictly true, though it had never been mentioned in the past. They had printed and stuffed the envelopes, but could not mail them. We went through our options, all of which would cost money. There was a lot of shock factor.


Joe suggested we take out the personal parts of the letter, as an option. I didn't like it much, as it would kick back the timetable, but the extra $900 was going to be hard to justify.


The mailing house gave a quote for a revised letter, which was much less than the first class postage would be, so we decided to do that. It meant finding new blank letterhead (over 2,000 sheets), and new envelopes.


We ordered more stationery from Harry.


The mailing house shredded the old letters and we approved the new format. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but my towel was out and waving.


The letterhead arrived at the mailing house.


The carrier envelopes (the outside window envelopes) were delivered to the mailing house.


The return envelopes arrived at the mailing house. This was the last piece of the giant puzzle for 2011.


The dues renewal letters are in the mail...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Defenders Trail, Day Two

(Originally posted February 20, 2011; updated April 20, 2022 to fix image rot)

Since I walked the middle section of the Defenders Trail first, in January, I would have to complete the entire trail in 2 remaining steps, whether on one day or two. And since I'm hiking the trail by myself, I want to be extra cautious in not overextending my reach, to find my car is miles away as it gets dark, stormy, or tiring. After flipping a mental coin, I chose the northern part of the trail as my next segment. Two historic monuments/areas I wanted to be sure to visit on this hike were Battle Acre, and the Aquila Randall monument. A bit of research on the old Defenders Trail guide book, searching the internet with the excellent Historic Marker Database (HMDB), and viewing maps both online and on paper led me to decide to park near Battle Acre, hike south past the Randall monument, then return to my starting point, looping as far north as time, weather and my condition allowed. Near Battle Acre park are houses, some row homes, and some individual. To minimize interfering with neighborhood parking, I left my car on Kimberley Road very near North Point Road and walked over to the park.  


The two photos of the marker, and the center of the park itself, on the HMDB, don't show the whole picture, as it were. The park is surrounded almost entirely by a fence, but it's split in parts, and the gate pillars are askew, as seen above. Because the park is bordered by busy roads, commercial establishments and high density housing, it felt more like a vacant lot than a park on a winters' day. The sad condition of the American flag on a pole at the center contributed to the rundown feeling. I thought of North Point Boulevard, along with North Point Road, as resembling a dollar sign; the older "road" section being the "S" part, winding along the the original topography, and the newer "Boulevard" section as the 2 straight lines cutting through in a wide, smooth bypass of anything close to nature. I guess that's the price of progress, having fast roads where you barely know what you're driving over, but it means a few things to planning and executing a hike. 

Normally, I'd want to travel on the older road sections, because that's where the local historical events happened, and because slower traffic can be less risky to the pedestrian. But the newer four lane divided highway has wider shoulders and off-road sections to walk on, including paved surfaces wider than a car, while the older two lane road has few if any sidewalks, and the off-road section is typically not paved any wider than the white stripe down the side, plus the drainage ditches can be hazardous to walk near, requiring more concentration to each footstep than to the world around. 

With all that, I chose to walk on both old and new areas, varying my route to minimize back tracking. With more people, and more cars to drop off and pick up, you might be better off staying on the older roads, as long as you watch intently for traffic at the narrowest parts. Pedestrians seem scarce around here. The Aquila Randal monument is less than a mile away from Battle Acre, on the other side of North Point Boulevard. 

The crossing of North Point Road is tricky, as the northern part merges onto the four lane in a tight curve with low visibility. I'd recommend getting to the east side of North Point Boulevard at the Cove Point Road intersection since it has traffic lights and cars actually stop for periods of time. 

The intersection with the eastern part of North Point Road is a "slow down and turn left" process, where you'd be racing across the median to get to safety.


Unlike the HMDB photos, which show the business to the south of the Aquilla Randall and North Point Battlefield monuments in the background, the above shot is from the road, with the nearby residence behind. And when I say nearby, it's more like the statue and plaque are lawn ornaments, as there is no separation between their yard and the historic area. You could obviously drive right past this and not notice the historic significance at all. 

The remainder of the hike on February 12, 2011, was more contemporary than historic, as I traversed industrial areas near the Beltway, taking a side trip over I-695 to railroad sidings, warehouses and maintenance buildings. Probably the most pleasant surprise was near an enclosed "pond" that I thought was for stormwater management, but may actually be a tidal marsh of sorts, when I startled a great blue heron that was crouched in the vegetation not far from the highway (several feet). As it took off and spread its wings widely, I fumbled to get the cell phone camera on and pointed in the right direction. If you zoom in and look closely, you can see it is on the far side of the water by the time I snapped this.  


Once I reached the area I had hiked on the first leg, I turned back north, generally following the wider North Point Boulevard, but side tracking onto North Point Road for variety. When I was parallel to my car, after about 2 hours of walking, I continued north and west toward the shopping center now called North Point Plaza. The older guide book mentioned a "North Point Shopping Center", but I'm not sure if is that one, or the smaller North Point Village Shopping Center near where the drive-in was. After seeing very few people outside of their cars for nearly 3 hours, the activity at the "Amish Market" and other Saturday commercial activity was a big contrast. As I have visited portions of the Defenders Trail, I've taken many pictures, uploading those that might be interesting to Panoramio, and then to Google Earth. Before I started walking, I noticed Google Earth had few if any photos of the neighborhoods in this historic peninsula. 

With the second leg complete, there are now 56 shots tagged with DefendersTrail [dead link], along with others in the vicinity. The Google Maps truck has driven on North Point Road, and North Point Boulevard, but there is no substitute for putting your own feet on the history trail.