Now more than ever, public media is essential. Give Now.

Written by: Debra Kurtz
Date: April 19, 2016

voicecorps-volunteers-300x217Of all my senses, including common sense, sight is my most precious. Even as a child, I tried pretending what it would be like to be blind or even seeing-impaired; I practiced finding my way with a blindfold or in a pitch dark room. I imagined myself without any of the other senses: smell, touch, taste and hearing, but the loss of any of those did not scare me as much as the loss of my sight. That fear was the reason I was so intrigued by the presentation of a blind woman at a Lunch and Learn session at the corporation where I worked. The year was 1996.

The blind woman brought a small brown box and explained in detail how the radio reading service worked. In central Ohio, VOICEcorps, the radio reading service originally known as CORRS, the Central Ohio Radio Reading Service, is broadcast on an audio subchannel (an SCA* channel ) along with the regular programming channels of WOSU. The subscribers’ radio receivers (the small brown box she was showing us) were designed to tune in only the reading service’s signal; the service reached the same area covered by WOSU and could be received anytime WOSU was on the air.

*Every FM radio station has the capacity of transmitting a second signal along with its regular broadcast signal. This process is called Subsidiary Communications Authority (SCA).

As the woman (her name was Mary) continued her presentation, she went on to explain that the reading service was a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. It was supported by fundraisers and sponsored by the City of Columbus, the Ohio Broadcast Media Commission, the Columbus Foundation, Community Shares of Central Ohio and the International Association of Audio Information Services. With the help of more than 200 volunteers, both live and recorded articles from numerous sources were read in order to inform, educate and entertain subscribers. The service was free to qualifying seeing-impaired people.

‘What a wonderful service,’ I thought to myself and took the brochure that was handed to the audience. I slid it into my Franklin Planner (this was way before smart phones) and carried it, reviewing it often and thinking that I would volunteer my time to this wonderful organization as soon as I ‘had time.’ It was called ‘Radio Reading Service.’

I had very little time to volunteer: I had three jobs and three teenagers and was a single parent trying to keep four vehicles running and the kids out of trouble. I always remembered the service, though, and daily was thankful for my eyesight. I kept thinking that someday I would follow-up with my desire to help.

In 2002 when I finally had a job that paid enough to allow me to work just one job and the kids were in college, I reviewed my time allowances and decided it was time to volunteer. As further incentive, I was downsized from my job and had more time than ever to look outside my immediate troubles. The brochure was still in my Franklin Planner!

I called the number and Mary interviewed me on the phone for nearly 40 minutes. She had me come to the recording studio located at 2955 West Broad St., Columbus, OH, and participate in a training session that taught me how to read with clarity and appropriate voice inflexion without editorializing. She scheduled me to read on tape for later broadcasting (that allowed me to erase and start over if I made gross pronunciation errors) and I entered the world of radio volunteering. Much later, I was trained to read live with a partner.

Volunteers read from a wide range of periodicals that include local, regional, and national newspapers, magazines and books. These cover topics such as business, technology, entertainment, television listings, human interest, history, political commentary, hobbies, sports, cooking and many other themes. The Columbus Dispatch, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today are read live daily, including weekends and include such valuable information as obituaries, editorials, grocery/retail/department store ads and local interviews. In addition, weekly neighborhood publications such as This Week newspapers, The Other Paper and Columbus Monthly magazine are recorded regularly.

Their Mission is to connect, inform and inspire by offering information and entertainment in any way that honors the dignity of people of all ages who cannot use standard print due to a disability.

While there is one employee who organizes the volunteers, operators who run the control room (these operators are blind and very impressive in their ability to keep the service on schedule), a front desk person and a director, volunteers also assist with annual fundraisers such as a popular fall golf outing, the Care-Athon and the Legacy Society. There are also opportunities to ‘stuff’ envelopes for communication, relieve the front desk person for lunch or help with recycling (all newspapers and publications are recycled).

I have been honored to be a small part of the ongoing service to those who cannot use standard print. This opportunity has been a way to reach thousands of people with a few hours of commitment and yet feel confident that what I am contributing is more than worth any time it takes. I am still thankful daily for my eyesight and still consider it the most valuable of my senses.

To volunteer, you can call 614-274-7650 between the hours of 8:30 and 5 p.m. To just listen, go to the website: www.voicecorps.org and check out the schedule; streaming audio is available.

The information in this article has been verified and approved by the VOICEcorps marketing department.