This piece originally ran in the September 2022 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
John, EAA 522935, and Becky Lowe, EAA 696676, have been volunteering with Operation Thirst for almost 10 years, working to feed hundreds of employees and volunteers during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. John, who served in the Air Force, loves aviation. However, Becky isn’t so enthused. That’s why they started volunteering — John is still able to attend and spend time with his wife, as well as help other people. While they originally drove trams every couple of years, everything changed when they were asked to run Operation Thirst.
Housed in a small building, the Lowes and their volunteers were making around a thousand sandwiches a day but were barely keeping up. Suddenly, a volunteer with deli experience came to their rescue.
“Her family runs a deli at a private golf club,” Becky explained. “So she came in and told us how we could make the process more efficient. She figured out that if we started by 8 a.m., we could get all these sandwiches done … by noon. It worked out beautifully.”
It was a good thing Operation Thirst found a new process, because AirVenture continued to grow. In 2021, KidVenture alone needed 400 sandwiches for one day. Luckily, EAA saw this need and built a new, larger building for Operation Thirst in 2019. Around this time, the Lowes also took over operations for the Volunteer Kitchen, where they make multiple meals each day for hundreds of their fellow volunteers.
“We’ve got an army in here,” John said. “These guys are chopping vegetables, chopping melons. And we got the back room with the ovens and stuff, and we’re baking everything …. It’s a full restaurant operation going on. And then, people come through and we serve them.”
It’s hard work, but John and Becky have enjoyed the role they’ve played in helping AirVenture run.
“There are many, many moving parts,” Becky said. “And when we said we’d do this, I had no idea what I was involved in. I enjoyed it! I have made wonderful friendships …. I look forward to them all coming.”
When they found out they won the 2022 Volunteer of the Year award, John and Becky were shocked.
“I don’t know who nominated us or why,” Becky said. “It brought tears to my eyes.”
Thank you to John and Becky, and all volunteers, for the selfless time and work given every year.
Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and just about everything else EAA does — possible. This space in EAA Sport Aviation is dedicated to thanking and shining the spotlight on volunteers from the community. Sadly, it cannot capture all of the thousands of volunteers who give so much to the community every year. So, next time you see a volunteer at AirVenture or elsewhere, however they are pitching in to make EAA better, be sure to thank them for it. It’s the least we can do. Do you know a volunteer you’d like to nominate for Volunteer Spotlight? Visit EAA.org/Submissions.