The year was 1945. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in
baseball. Alfred Hitchcock's movie Spellbound entertained
moviegoers nationwide. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
was awarded for the discovery of penicillin. And a picnic was held — but
not just any picnic.
What began as a no-frills, lunchtime event has evolved into one
of the most respected and successful nonprofit organizations within
the federal arena — the Recreation and Welfare Association,
serving both the NIH community and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. Yet its goals and boundaries go well beyond the
government. Over the years, R&W has raised millions of dollars
and created programs for such worthy causes as the Children's Inn,
Special Love/Camp Fantastic and Friends of the Clinical Center.
The group also goes out of its way during times of need. Just
recently, the association mounted relief efforts in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina, working with the Heart of America Foundation
in efforts that culminated in getting employees to donate around
200 backpacks to the Houston school system, which dispersed them
to school children living in shelters and other temporary housing.
This NIH Record clipping depicts
the R&W Association in its early going, circa 1953, when the
employee theater group "The Hamsters" entertained
R&W is well represented, with about 5,000 members, according to
the president of the organization, Randy Schools. And on the heels
of its 60th anniversary, "our focus remains much the same as it
always has — to serve and help people, both inside of NIH
and on the outside. It's what we're all about," he noted.
The association has provided members with myriad offerings — including
on-site fitness centers, hosting sports and athletic teams and
events, NIH hair salons/barbershops and an NIH art gallery. In
addition, the organization provides travel services, photo processing,
notary services, discounted tickets to the theater, amusement parks
and sporting events, and held special movie nights. It also offers
housing services and a monthly newsletter. In all, it affords employees
a host of other social and educational activities — basically,
something for everyone.
"And to think it started out as a picnic, put together by a former
employee of the National Institute of Mental Health, Hazel Rea," said
Schools, who has been affiliated with R&W since 1978. The picnic
turned into some softball games and a league, and progressed from
there, explained Schools. "I don't think anyone ever thought we
would reach anywhere near the current level of activities we have
or the charities we support today," he added.
Schools is especially proud of R&W's involvement with programming
and fundraising for Special Love/Camp Fantastic, a group that also
has close ties with the National Cancer Institute. The organization,
which helps children with cancer, started out serving 33 youngsters
but now has a clientele numbering about 400. R&W also provides
major fundraising efforts for two other NIH charities, Friends
of the Clinical Center and the Children's Inn. Those who participate
in the Combined Federal Campaign can make contributions to either
of those charities, which are listed in the CFC guide.
Plans for a dinner and other celebratory events are currently
under way to honor the R&W volunteers and former association employees.
To learn more about R&W and its services and programs, visit http://www.recgov.org/r&w/r&w.html or
call (301) 496-6061.