If there's a trail festival that celebrates the Appalachian Trail, ALDHA tries to be there with a display and at least one volunteer member to plug and promote the benefits of the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, the only membership group on the trail devoted solely to the hiker. The ALDHA display can be seen at biennial conferences of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Southern and Northern Rucks, smaller trail festivals in towns like Hot Springs, N.C., Millinocket, Maine, and the A.T. Kickoff in Georgia, and at the Appalachian Trail Museum's festival in Pennsylvania for National Trails Day. Our biggest event for outreach, of course, is at Trail Days in Damascus, Va., where we set up a huge pavilion-like tent to show off our organization to the public. We also host a hiker feed in the Rock School to meet and greet (and feed) the hikers.
The ALDHA display has evolved over the years and now commands several tables to show off things like the Companion, the newsletter, the Endangered Services Campaign and our new search and rescue team. Copies of our brochure, updated annually, are liberally handed out. At the 2014 Gathering in Williamstown, there was a new exhibit created that is devoted solely to The Long Distance Hiker, ALDHA's newsletter since 1983. And all this is in addition to the space we take up to display memorabilia from the ALDHA Store, including T-shirts, patches and bandanas, making anyone who wears one a walking ambassador for ALDHA.
Now shepherding ALDHA's outreach efforts will be a new outreach coordinator, who will continue to expand our reach so we have a presence at some major outdoor exhibitions, including one held in Minneapolis, where ALDHA has set up its exhibit at the Outdoor Adventure Expo for a few years now.
If you have any questions about our outreach efforts, contact the coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ALDHA Care program will provide assistance to low-cost and donation-only hostels along the Appalachian Trail. Assistance to these service providers will be made available via financial support, organized maintenance/cleaning events and by helping low-cost and donation-only hostels with day-to-day operations during the peak hiker season. Assistance will include an annual care package of supplies and an annual spring cleaning/maintenance event at the hostel deemed in most need. The care packages will consist of things like toilet paper,
paper towels, cleaning products, soap, shampoo and laundry detergent.
There are some low-cost and donation-only hostels that are run on a shoestring budget, and many are highly used during the peak hiker season. These hostels rarely turn a profit, and they are in need of assistance on an annual basis. Further, a few of these hostels are in danger of closing due to the poor behavior of some hikers; therefore, ALDHA via the ALDHA Care program will show their appreciation and support of these hostels with a spring cleaning and maintenance event. This event will include a thorough cleaning of the hostel, grounds maintenance, and light facility maintenance in order for the hostel to be ready and set up for success during the peak hiker season. This event will be coordinated annually for the hostel that displays the greatest need at that time.
If you have any questions about the program, contact ALDHA Care program coordinator Jim Chambers at ALDHAcare@aldha.org.
Continuing a tradition begun by former Coordinator Mike Wingeart, ALDHA board member Peter Passalacqua is compiling binder notebooks for each A.T. hostel to share information about programs, activities and other features of our group with this year's new crop of long-distance hikers.
Details on the annual Gathering, the Companion, the newsletter, website, work trips, search and rescue, the Endangered Services Campaign and other ALDHA activities are included, along with copies of the Gathering program from the previous year and a copy or two of a recent newsletter.
In 2016, ALDHA purchased a storage trailer that can hold our growing inventory of merchandise and be hauled to various trail events like Trail Days and the Gathering. It was detailed with the ALDHA logo as well as the logos of several of our other programs, like ALDHA Care, the new Search and Rescue team, the Endangered Services Campaign, our Trail Aid work trips and our thru-hiker recognition awards. It also plugs the Companion with an image of the 2016 cover. (There's no mention of our award-winning newsletter, but maybe next time.)
The point is that it's a traveling billboard for all things ALDHA, and people do notice it while it's being hauled to a trail event, often for hundreds of miles. Dubbed Sherpa, it is becoming a well-known symbol of ALDHA wherever ALDHA has a presence.