Jon, welcome to the forums (finally)!
Thank you for offering up your repeater for our net operations. I think this is potentially a great solution at least temporarily, and I totally understand not wanting it to remain linked at all times. We can continue our conversation on this through messenger and hopefully work out a game plan to test this out with club approval.
For everyone else that thinks the answer to this topic is to improve your station (HT) you are both right and wrong.
I know a half dozen or more people who are interested in amateur radio now that the entry fee (radio costs) have become more affordable. Every one of them is eager to hear something over the air to see if it is worth taking a test to get licensed. I encourage them to tune into the local nets to hear and get to know some of the active hams in the area. Many have had me assist with programming so I am putting all the local repeaters in for them so that they have access to the link system and the BCRO link as well as several standalone repeaters (K5DVT-16 on Dodd for example).
When one of the new hams gets interested and wants to listen our answer should never be “oh sure you just bought a radio now you have to do these other things to actually make it useful.” Our answer should be “okay, here are your limitations with that equipment so you will probably need to focus on these repeaters from your home” and show them how to look up repeater locations (repeater book) so they know which ones to move to as they are mobile. Insisting that they need to modify something, buy more gear, or buy a different radio all together should be the last step once we identify their location as the main limiting factor of their equipment. Sometimes that can’t be avoided and that is fine. Use it is a learning opportunity once you have highlighted the limitations of their equipment.
Once we get them convinced that they should get licensed and start participating then we should start asking what they want to do next. Home fixed antenna? Help them pick their first base station? Upgrade to a true mobile unit? Or go into more mods for their current HT antenna situation.
Don’t get me wrong, suggesting that they improve from the factory rubber duckie antenna on an HT SHOULD be one of the first things suggested, but telling them they should throw up a pole of any size should not. Assume you are talking to someone that lives were that isn’t an option.
One of the guys that was fired up discovered that he was in a little bit of a weak area at home even for the link system. He upgraded his antenna, but even then was only reliably listening to the link and was never able to hear the BCRO nets/repeaters. He ended up tossing his radio in a drawer for the last 6-8 months because it seemed useless to him. He is now excited and ready to test again as he is starting to participate in a lot more outdoor activities, and sees where amateur radio can become useful to him again. Two of the other guys still have their radios stashed. Maybe the will come back maybe they won’t.
The amateur radio service isn’t as easy of a sell as it once was. We are very fortunate to have the repeater system that we do as well as a solid group of Elmers eager to share knowledge. We still gotta get 'em in the door first though. We do that by providing reliable coverage to the entry level.