Our Archives Committee Chairperson is compiling a permanent record of the history of Queens Intergroup.
Anyone who wishes to provide material
(pictures, stories, written or printed information, etc.)
may contact John F. at email@example.com.
Help us all to “Remember When?”
Shareathon is Queens Intergroup’s signature program. Unique in its early years and uncommon in the world today, Shareathon is a series of 24/7 meetings hosted by AA groups from all over Queens held in one location over Thanksgiving weekend and again from Christmas Eve thru New Year’s Day.
Typically Shareathon consists of about 300 hours of meetings attended by about 6,000 people who donate about $6,000. Shareathon, in its impact on individuals and its import to AA in Queens, is simply awesome.
Within weeks of its founding in 1991 QIAA held an “Open House” on Thanksgiving afternoon in its tiny office on Jamaica Avenue in Bellerose. The next year the Open House was held in QIAA’s new office space over the Cinemart Theater on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills.
Members of the Steering Committee and friends hosted meetings from 10 in the morning to 10 at night on Thanksgiving Day, 1992. The Thanksgiving event was so popular that an “Alacathon” was held the following New Year’s Eve and Day. In 1993 the Thanksgiving event was entitled an “Open House Share-A-thon” and lasted the entire weekend. In addition to food, donations for the Institution Literature Fund were requested.
To this day Shareathon is QIAA’s major fundraiser, accounting for about twenty percent of its annual income. In 1994 the name Shareathon was adopted, although there is still no standard spelling or typography. Also fixed in 1994 was its schedule of Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas Eve thru New Year’s Day.
Hosting by Groups rather than individuals and selection of the Groups by lottery had become part of the tradition by 2005, together with answering the Hotline and volunteering for the Twelve Step list.
After the Cinemart lease expired in 2003, Shareathon was relocated to Our Savior Lutheran School on Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park. Forced to vacate again in 2014, Shareathon was most recently held at Christ the King Center on Farmers Boulevard in Springfield Gardens.
Over the years many have contributed significantly and generously to Shareathon. Five should be noted: Frank R, Hank G, Manny A, John Francis B, and Chris R. For Queens AAs attending Shareathon is like going home during the holidays. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes consoling or joyful; but we are most always there, if only in our heads.
Note: This article is the first of several about the history of Queens Intergroup that will appear in the newsletter. If you have any comments, please address them by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the 2015 Third Quarter Newsletter
On September 18, 1991, the start of QIAA was boldly announced by flyer proclaiming its mission to help carry the message and to enhance A.A. in Queens. Six weeks later a small office was opened on Jamaica Avenue in Bellerose, staffed by a handful of volunteers, led by Frank R, equipped with a phone and a coffee pot. That was the beginning of Queens Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Some AAs from Queens had come to believe that a Queens-based intergroup could provide more AA meetings in Queens institutions; would generate more funds for free AA literature in institutions; could establish a 24/7 hotline with volunteers more familiar with the details of Queens meetings; and could keep the meeting book up to date. There were other issues and resentments as well. On the other hand many individuals, groups and AA organizations were strongly opposed to breaking away from New York Intergroup. AA unity must have seemed threatened; limited resources wasted by duplication; even personalities placed over principles.
To counter these objections and to ask for support, advocates of QIAA would speak at meetings every night that first year. Every day a few dedicated volunteers would staff the hotline, put together the first meeting book (published April 1, 1992), and perform the tasks necessary to run an AA central office. The written record is sparse, and memories have faded. The names of Frank R, Hank G, Jerry O and Mexican Bob belong on any shortlist of founders of Queens Intergroup; probably also those of Lincoln Y, Truman W, and Billie C. There were others who served that first year, but few who contributed so much hard service. Also vital that first year was the substantial support of a small number of sustaining groups of AAs located throughout Queens. QIAA’s first tag line was, fittingly, “we need your support.” More volunteers were needed. Money was always short, requiring special visits to sustaining groups and frequent passing of the basket amongst the founders.
In the beginning there was no organizational structure. The founders met informally and frequently as an officers committee. The first Delegates Meeting was held at the St. Albans Veterans Hospital on February 22, 1992. At first curious, increasingly vocal, and often belligerent, the group representatives had to learn by trial and error how to govern their new intergroup in accordance with AA Traditions and common sense.
Acceptance of the breakaway intergroup first came from GSO (General Service Office), later from SENY (South Eastern New York Area – Area 49), and little by slowly from individual AAs and groups in Queens. As the months went by the founders began to feel that QIAA might just make it. It was a fitting conclusion to that first year that the “sober broom closet” of an office on Jamaica Avenue was closed. On October 1, 1992, a new office and meeting room was opened in an equally problematic “pigeon loft” of a space over the Cinemart Theatre on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills.
From the 2015 Fourth Quarter Newsletter
In September 1991 a flyer boldly announced that a Queens Intergroup has been started. Fourteen months later a newsletter proudly proclaimed its initial accomplishments. A 24/7 hotline was in regular operation. Exchange & Delegates meetings were being held. A Queens Area Meeting Book had been published. QIAA was gaining recognition and support.
And a new, larger office was opened in central Queens. Although the rent was low and flexible, the building itself was a wreck, requiring continual repair and renovation. The stories are legendary of holes in the roof, lack of heat, broken toilets, electrical hazards, etc. With skill and unending hard work AA handymen transformed the “pigeon loft” into a proper office. A separate meeting room was created, providing home space for several AA groups and sorely needed cash to help pay the rent. Over the years the office above the theatre became a special place for Queens AAs to meet and to serve.
In its third year the corporate structure of Queens Intergroup was framed out. Delegates from the 200 or so AA groups in Queens were meeting quarterly to establish the governing policies of their central office and to elect members of its Steering Committee. The Steering Committee was in turn charged with performing the services set out in its Declaration of Purpose. Bylaws were adopted establishing how the Steering Committee was to be organized and make decisions. To administer daily operations in a business-like manner an Office Operations Committee was established. And to comply with legalities a nonprofit membership corporation qualified as a tax exempt organization was formed.
Also in 1994 an Institutions Committee was established to carry the message into Creedmoor, Faith Mission and other previously underserved alcoholic treatment centers. Supporting materials and procedures for the Hotline were created to systematize that central office function. Maintaining a core staff of forty five volunteer phone operators was then (as now) a vital and interminable task. Computer data bases for the meeting book, the 12th Step list and mailing list were created. Less successful were efforts to maintain a regular newsletter and to create a workable AA literature sales program.
QIAA started out with a few dollars and a few commitments. No financial records from the first months survive, but minutes from the first two years never report a bank balance of more than $2,000. There is no evidence of any accounts being past due, but those first years were very hand-to-mouth. Members of the Steering Committee frequently visited groups to explain its mission and to appeal for donations and volunteers. Donated labor and materials were regularly credited against office rent due. Several small bequests were eagerly accepted. The annual meeting book printing cost of $1,700 required careful budgeting. Fundraising for AA literature for institutions was always a special concern. Gradually, more groups made larger contributions more regularly. It took almost five years before a prudent reserve could be set aside.
In 2001, www.queensaa.org was established. At the end of that same year Queens Intergroup was asked to partner with New York Inter-Group in taking AA meetings non-stop around the clock to the responders at the World Trade Center. Those meetings were a very emotional and exhausting display of the strength of the Fellowship, its individual volunteers and its service organizations. The 9/11 meetings and the last Shareathon held in the rooms over the Cinemart theatre in December, 2001 marked the end of QIAA’s Pioneer Years.
From the 2016 First Quarter Newsletter
Changes in QIAA office arrangements, Steering Committee objectives and leadership separate the period that may be called the Pioneer Years between 1993 and 2001 from what may be called the End of an Era which began in 2002 and concluded in 2011.
In 2001 the lease for space above the Cinemart Theatre on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills expired without possibility of renewal. From 1992 the office and meeting room had been a vital center of AA activity in Queens. Usually open eight plus hours a day, sevendays a week, the office and meeting room brought together AA’s from all parts of Queens to meet and to perform various interoffice functions. The Cinemart space promoted personal bonding and identification with the organization, much as an AA clubhouse might do. The ten independent AA groups using the meeting room had to find new locations. The business office was relocated to a smaller storefront across the street. The Share-a-thon was moved to Our SaviorLutheran School on Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park. Increasingly popular, the Share-a-thon required a much larger facility, new operating procedures and additional leadership.
During the first decade of the new millennium the main objectives of the Steering Committee shifted from promoting support and establishing a new organization to managing people and administering existing services. This presented new challenges. Providing 24/7 hotline service, producing a newsletter, managing a bookstore, maintaining computer data files, et cetera, required talents, attitudes, methods and rules common enough in the business world, but not necessarily in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. In this context Hank’s Notes, a procedures manual for managing many of QIAA’s intergroup functions, were written in 2005. As membership in the Steering Committee became more open and diverse, disruptive behavior and/or inadequate performance sometimes became a problem. Personnel turnover sometimes placed an excessive burden on a few. Also, as founding and pioneer leaders ceased to participate in QIAA, a new generation of trusted servants sometimes struggled to find their way. Thru it all, Queens AA individuals and groups always responded to the plea “It’s your intergroup. Support it.”
The End of an Era was celebrated on September 24, 2011 in grand style at a Twentieth Anniversary Meeting. The guest of honor was Frank R, a founder and leader of QIAA. A videotape of his memories of Queens Intergroup was the highlight of the evening. Also on the dais sharing their recollections were trusted servants Bob C, Greg F, Hank G, John F B, Manny A, Michael L, Peter C, Richie P, and Rob C. In the audience were many old-timers whose service to QIAA may have been less applauded but was no less appreciated. Also present were a number of relative newcomers to service outside the home group who were encouraged to undertake the work of Queens Intergroup. The Twenty Fifth Anniversary will be celebrated on September24th, 2016. More details to come.