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REACT members always lend an ear and a hand

December 19, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Lois Kline knows how important it is for a stranded motorist to be able to reach help.

Her husband, Jim, has broken down on the road while on his truck routes to Boston or Virginia, she said. He got help by asking for assistance over his citizens band radio.

While it would surprise few people that truck drivers have CBs, there eventually has to be someone on the other end who can respond for the communication system to aid drivers.

Lois Kline has been on that other end since 1976.

Kline is one of roughly 20 members of the Hagerstown Radio Emergency Associated Citizen Team who aid motorists in distress by relaying information to the proper authorities.

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Unfortunately, the membership of Hagerstown REACT has been dwindling over the years, group officials said. "There's always a shortage of volunteers in any nonprofit," said Terry Smith, treasurer.

The group's membership has decreased in recent years from 48 because of job transfers and deaths, Smith said.

Besides assisting motorists, the group's mission has expanded to include providing communication assistance at various community events and running safety breaks for highway motorists on holiday weekends, Smith said.

The group provides coffee, cold drinks and cookies for travelers at rest stops.

If people drive too far without a break, they could fall asleep at the wheel and get in an accident, Smith said.

"We've heard from a number of people over the years how that really helped them get home," he said.

Because members are volunteers and cannot make every event, there are usually eight to 12 members at an event, said Smith, 44, of Hagerstown.

The group helps at about 20 events a year, including the March of Dimes Walkathon in April, the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon in November, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra concert at Antietam National Battlefield on July Fourth and the luminaires at the battlefield in December.

This Saturday members will direct traffic at the luminaires at Rest Haven Cemetery.

During the annual Mummers' Parade, REACT members patrol the streets and alleys of Hagerstown to make sure people aren't taking advantage of the fact that many of the police are along the parade route, Smith said.

Being seen patrolling the area in their white uniform shirts and jackets can prevent people from actually doing damage, he said.

Hagerstown Police Chief Dale Jones said he appreciates the backup REACT provides during the parade. The group provides an extra way to let police know about problems, he said.

Being a REACT member can be a 24-hour effort, said Bob Haugh, 53, of Cearfoss.

Haugh has his CB on round the clock, listening to it from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Despite having a handicap that keeps him in a wheelchair, Haugh is still able to help others using his CB, he said. Besides helping with accidents and breakdowns, drivers can use the CB to warn other drivers and police of drunk drivers and speeders, he said.

Being on a hill west of Hagerstown provides Haugh with good reception.

Anyone who wants to apply for membership can call Terry Smith at 301-790-2638.

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