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Volunteer Spotlight: Dan and Patti Bennett

Dan and Patti Bennett sit in a Waco cockpit. A sweepstakes prize Patti won in 2002 provided an opportunity to learn to fly a Waco, including some aerobatic training.

Why would anyone take a vacation to come to EAA AirVenture and scrub floors or dig holes?

Patti Bennett says it's because of the way people treat you in Oshkosh. "It's what keeps you coming back."

There aren't many jobs that Patti and Dan Bennett, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, haven't done over the years. The Bennetts come early to AirVenture to get a camping spot in the shade. And since they're here early, they help out.

"A lot of the people we camp with are from Chapter 439, but they do a lot of the heavy stuff," Patti says. "I wasn't real interested in that, so I started doing the little things."

Whether little or big, it's all work that needs to get done, in order for the annual fly-in convention to be a success. In fact, she's worked the water wagon, greeted airplanes, painted fences, cleaned buildings and scrubbed floors, even dug holes. Dan has volunteered with the Chapter 439 group, flightline operations, and airplane greeters, to name a few. But they said they never found their niche until they were named co-chairman and woman of the campground volunteers. Their job is to recruit other volunteers.

Patti says she treats her volunteers the way that she herself likes to be treated. "I greet them with a smile and remind myself that we're not paying them for anything. So I'm grateful for whatever time they give us. Plus, I really do enjoy people."

They meet with other chairmen so they know what jobs need to be done throughout much of the grounds. Some people come to the booth, knowing what jobs they'd like to do. Others don't so she gives them a listing that describes each area. "And some people can only sit - we have jobs like that, too."

Why do they come back?

"It's because of the people, pure and simple," Patti says. "They're like family - you camp together, eat together and party together."

Dan agreed. "Without a doubt, the people are what brings me back - both the people we work with and the people we work for. We've developed some great friendships."

People without an interest in aviation look at them cross-eyed when they tell them what they do each year. "To them, it seems like we take two weeks off to work," Dan said. "But we just have a ball."


FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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