111 Years of Pioneers: Celebrating the Past and Embracing the Future

On November 2, 2021, we celebrate the Pioneers 111th anniversary! That’s 111 years of rich history, fellowship, loyalty, and service. You are the reason we celebrate this historic milestone, and we are so excited about the future even as we commemorate the past.

Back in 1911, when the civic-minded leaders of the young telecommunications industry created Pioneering, they couldn’t have imagined that the group they founded, in a hotel ballroom in Boston, would grow into a world-class volunteer organization over a century later. But Pioneers did grow. And just as telecommunications technology has evolved over the decades, so have the Pioneers. Both have changed the world – from how we communicate to how we help our communities every day. Whatever challenges the future holds, our communities can count on one constant truth: Pioneers will always be there to answer the call for help.

History of Leading the Way

What is a Pioneer? An innovator: someone who ventures into the unknown and opens new ways of thinking. Trailblazers. Leaders. Our founders forged the way in an industry that transformed communication around the world. And our Pioneers, dedicated to service, have been blazing trails in volunteerism for decades. From the beginning, Pioneers have identified and seized opportunities to make the world better by making a difference in people’s lives –one person, one community, at a time.

Initially, friendship and fellowship were what it was all about. Industry people first congregated as friends, recalling the facts, traditions, and memories of the early history of the telephone. More than a century later, Pioneers' commitment to fellowship while making a difference is stronger than ever. Pioneers work hard. There is pride in our shared history, our mission and accomplishments, and the industry we represent. But at the heart of it all is fellowship. Our members create lifelong friendships through Pioneering. Through our volunteerism, we have touched others’ lives, but our lives have also been touched.

Changing with the Times

From our humble beginnings of just over 700 original members, we have grown into a diverse network of over 400,000 volunteers who proudly deliver on our mission every day: to effect immediate, tangible change in our local communities, in partnership with our sponsors.

These days, we focus our efforts in five major areas: helping military families, protecting the environment, education, life enrichment and health and human services. As our communities have changed, we have developed innovative, responsive ways of addressing those evolving needs. Our grassroots approach to volunteerism places us in a unique position to serve the very real needs of our local communities.

Pioneers across the United States and Canada dedicate millions of volunteer hours every single year. Since we understand and share the values of the communities where we live, work and play, we make meaningful changes in the lives of those right next door. We mentor schoolchildren and provide food and supplies to schools to provide better futures. We help families and communities rebuild after disasters strike. We provide sustenance by sponsoring food drives and supporting various charities. Whether we’re reaching out to help seniors, caring for the disabled, lending a hand to the homeless, or tackling an environmental project – no community need is too big or too small for the Pioneers to tackle.

Pioneers impact our communities in powerful and positive ways, and we intend to keep evolving and growing to do just that for the next 111 years and beyond. Thank you for your passion, drive, and commitment to the core principle that people helping people makes the world a better place.

A Timeline of Answering the Call

November 2, 1911
Telephone Pioneers of America was founded in Boston at a meeting at the Somerset Hotel. The first membership paper proposing the formation of the Bell System Telephone Pioneers had been circulated by Henry Pope, Charles Truex and Thomas Doolittle in 1910. In attendance at the 1911 Boston meeting were 244 founding members, including Alexander Graham Bell. The major goals were to perpetuate the ideals and traditions of the industry and promote the fellowship that were formed as a natural result of their teamwork.

Members wanted local activities. Since there was no provision for fraternal contact other than at annual association meetings, groups of Pioneers petitioned the association executive committee for permission to organize chapters. The first 12 Pioneers chapters were chartered.

It was officially declared at the Pioneers General Assembly in Chicago that community service was part of Pioneers mission. Pioneers adopted the slogan “United to Serve Others” covering six basic service areas – civic, health, education, youth, welfare, and church.

The original Pioneers Hug-a-Bears rolled off the Pioneers assembly line and into the arms of ailing children in hospitals. This project is still a cornerstone today.

Membership reaches 800,000.

Pioneers’ headquarters move to Denver.

Pioneers announce plans to “Focus on Education” in the United States and Canada. The Pioneers Foundation was created.

Telecom Pioneers officially shortens its name to Pioneers. The group also adopts a new brand to reflect how Pioneers “spark” change in their local communities.

Pioneers celebrates its Centennial year by sparking change through volunteer projects throughout its anniversary year culminating with a special celebration in Boston.

Pioneers embrace 110 years of rich history and look ahead to an exciting future led by dedicated Pioneers who strive to make the world a better place, one community at a time.