In a time of bitter political division, gross economic inequality and clashes over sex, faith, race and ethnicity, The Federation makes us pause a beat and smile.
Formally known as the International Federation of Trekkers, Inc., the nonprofit organization based in Huron, Ohio, is the real-world version of the Federation seen in Star Trek. At the helm is Russ Haslage, who created The Federation with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in 1984 to champion charitable causes and “make wondrous things happen,” to quote Gene himself.
“We need to embrace our differences,” says Russ. “This is what is going to make a bright future for humankind, free of poverty, hunger and hatred. We need to teach children tolerance. They are the key to our future.”
Chapters of the all-volunteer Federation are still doing great work, despite setbacks posed by the global Covid-19 pandemic. They continue to offer disaster relief and provide humanitarian assistance around the world. The Federation’s missions have, for example, fed the homeless, aided orphanages and saved shelter animals
The Federation powers ahead, fueled by donations, volunteer efforts and retail sales of Star Trek collectibles. Costumes, small ship replicas and tribbles sell well. Russ particularly likes the magnetic badge replicas from QMx. “They’re very popular,” he says. “They sell like crazy!”
Visitors can buy collectibles at the retail shop in The Federation’s new headquarters, which features a replica of the Star Trek bridge and pays homage to the Enterprise and the Discovery. Russ is working to restart online sales, which he put on hold last fall in order to relocate. He misses the pre-Covid days when he would set up at shows every month, recruiting members and selling merchandise.
But the absence of conventions has forced cutbacks. Says Russ, “We’ve been very careful. We don’t turn the heat up in the building as much as some would like. I’m changing the lights to LEDs to save on electricity. We got our first round of stimulus. It helped.” He’s also grateful to his landlord, who gave him two month’s worth of rent for free while he remodeled and moved.
A major highlight for Russ is Nichelle Nichols’ upcoming visit June 4-6, when the legendary actress who played Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series will visit The Federation headquarters to say farewell before entering retirement. Fans are welcome to join in wishing her well.
A data analyst from 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m, Russ has proudly held the unpaid position as president of the International Federation of Trekkers for 37 years and is fully committed to promoting Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a better future.
“Star Trek is about all of these people with their different gifts, backgrounds and cultures coming together to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem,” says Russ. It’s his continuing mission to bring together fans of the Star Trek Universe to help those in need.