The first meeting of the year for the Six and Twenty Club was held on Jan. 26 at the First Christian Church in Wilmington.

Outgoing officers president Patti Cook and secretary Mary Ann Raizk handed over their responsibilities to new president Cindy Crosthwaite and incoming secretary Cindy Petrich for 2024. The club begins another year of diverse and engaging reads.

Mindy Henson was the program leader. The book she is circulating this year is “No Ordinary Assignment: a memoir by journalist Jane Ferguson.” Ferguson’s autobiography is an intimate and powerful recollection of her life, tracing her childhood in Northern Ireland during the time of “the Troubles” to her career path as a foreign correspondent and war reporter. Ferguson takes the reader on a journey through the difficult places in the world that she has reported from — Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Afghanistan – focusing on the human stories of those affected by the horrors of oppression and war.

Henson then segued to southwest Ohio’s unique contribution to the power of reporting with a history of the formation of the Voice of America Bethany Relay Station. The VOA was created by the federal government to counter the propaganda of Germany, Japan, and Italy during World War II. Cincinnatian Powel Crosley, Jr. and his company were asked to provide their engineering expertise to develop powerful transmitters so that the VOA could broadcast accurate, unbiased reporting and promote messages of hope and freedom to people in war-torn countries, our troops and allies.

The VOA’s Bethany Relay Station was built in what is now West Chester and began operation in 1944. Programming was produced in New York City and sent via phone lines to the Bethany Relay Station for worldwide broadcasting during the war.

Due to changes in broadcasting technology, the Bethany Relay Station was decommissioned and closed in November 1994. Most of the land is now the Voice of America MetroPark. The original VOA building was restored and is leased to the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting, which is currently open to the public on weekend afternoons.

The VOA still exists and broadcasts news, information and cultural programming in 48 languages through radio as well as television, the Internet, mobile and social media. Its mission continues in its efforts to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. It has a weekly audience of approximately 326 million people and is funded by Congress.

As hostess, Henson served refreshments of gingerbread with lemon curd, chocolates, pistachios, and water while the members enjoyed socializing after the meeting.