Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Airport volunteers help ease the stress of flying

By Jack Hicks
Enquirer contributor

If your family or friends are flying in for the holidays and you can't meet them at the airport, don't worry.

Volunteers are there to help guide them.

The Airport Ambassadors, a volunteer organization at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, is in its 10th year helping people with everything from directions on how to fill out forms in a language foreign to them, to returning keys to car rental agencies or telling someone where to find a cheese coney.

It began as a temporary move to aid confused travelers.

Hundreds of thousands of travelers passing through the airport have received help from the folks in blue or white sweaters who volunteer their time.

"It's just satisfying being here. . . we want to be here,'' said Hazel Hackman of Lakeside Park, who is among the volunteer staff.

"I just like helping people. I've traveled myself, and in a strange city it's kind of nice having someone who lives there helping you out,'' said Tom Himmler of Florence.

Travelers can look for them - or their counterparts - at information kiosks in the terminals, as well as greeting international flights, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., seven days a week. Some ambassadors stay longer when flights are delayed, especially in the international area, where travelers sometimes need help filling out forms.

Judy Ingram, the airport's marketing manager, worked with Airport Community Relations Manager Dyan Price to establish the Airport Ambassadors a decade ago, to help with anticipated confusion relating to a new Delta terminal.

The volunteer roster has grown to 150 ambassadors. Most are retirees who work four-hour shifts at least once a week. About 80 are original members, Price said.

"You get to meet so many people, especially coming on the international flights,'' said Ed Hackman, Hazel Hackman's husband. The couple has been ambassadors for nine years.

Ambassador Dick Thieman of Delhi says of his so-called job: "This is the best thing I ever did."

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