Radio Reading Service needs volunteers
By Abbie Bennett
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Barbara Hansen was born blind. Although she’s never seen a newspaper, she remembers her parents reading them to her as a child.
Hansen knows the value of accessing news despite being visually impaired, so she and the volunteers at the Radio Reading Service of Eastern North Carolina have worked to broadcast newspapers over the radio, online and through other outlets for those throughout the region who are visually impaired or find reading difficult.
But Hansen and her volunteers struggle to produce the two broadcasts per day, she said. Volunteers are few, and the time requirement is about 1.5-2.5 hours per week at the Greenville studio, 3005 Memorial Drive. Volunteers also are trained on the equipment used for the broadcast.
Hansen, 70, of New Bern, is president of the board for the service and has been a part of it since 1992, when the eastern part of the state got its own service. The Triangle area has had a similar service since before it was founded in eastern North Carolina.
The local service still broadcasts the statewide audio produced in and around the capital, she said.
The service originally began because Hansen and others heard a need from eastern North Carolina blind or visually impaired residents, many of whom lost their sight later in life and missed reading the newspaper.
The reading service is the only service of its kind in the area, Hansen said, and reaches about 200 listeners, including about 60 in Greenville.
“We feel like there had been more in the past,” Hansen said. “It’s a goal of mine in the coming year to promote the service more.”
The broadcast offers selections from the Kinston Free Press, the Washington Daily News, the New Bern Sun Journal and The Daily Reflector, among others. It also includes statewide broadcast from other similar organizations, which include readings of the News & Observer and Our State magazine, as well as a 30-minute exercise program daily. Interviews with visually impaired people also are included, providing educational tips on how to cope with the disability, how to seek employment and other information.
A schedule of the programs is available for listeners and online.
Typically it takes at least two volunteers working together to produce one broadcast — one reading and one operating the board. Both decide what to read from the papers, from news stories to features, sports, syndicated columns and a reader favorite — The Daily Reflector’s Bless Your Heart column.
“Our Greenville listeners especially love hearing Bless Your Heart,” Hansen said.
Listeners can access the broadcasts through radio frequency, Public Access Channel 23 and a 24-hour Internet stream. The service also provides physical radios which can be programmed to access a wireless Internet connection to stream the broadcast. The broadcast also is available in all patient rooms at Vidant Medical Center and Carolina East Medical Center in New Bern.
Hansen graduated college with a major in social work and began working with Services for the Blind when she learned about the reading service in the 1970s, before North Carolina had a program. Raleigh began its program in the 1980s, and by 1992, eastern North Carolina had begun a service. Now retired, she still heads up the service for those who depend on it.
“I’ve worked with people who lost their vision later in life who were totally devastated that they couldn’t read or drive,” she said. “One of their biggest concerns was no longer being able to read. They loved their newspaper and could always just pick it up and read it before.”
Along with Ramona van Nortwick, a Greenville woman who lost her sight later in life and died in 2010, Hansen worked to establish the program and recruit volunteers to read for the broadcast.
“Growing up, I was never able to read,” Hansen said. “But my parents read the paper to me, and I thought that was pretty special. So this has been very meaningful to me, personally.”
Yard sales held by the program generate about 40 percent of annual expenses for the service, Hansen said, but since she and others are getting older, she hopes to find alternative funding.
Other funding has come from writing grant proposals, Hansen said. The Greater Greenville Foundation has been a vital source of funding, she said, and Vidant Medical Center also has contributed along with churches and civic groups. The service accepts donations, but most sorely needs volunteers to read for the broadcast.
“We need help if we want to keep it going,” Hansen said. “It really helps and is appreciated by people, and we want to be able to reach even more. But we need consistent help to do that.”
For more information on the Radio Reading Service of Eastern North Carolina, go to www.rrsenc.com.
All individuals who would like to read for the Radio Reading Service program must first complete the Volunteer Information Form and send to our organization, via email or regular mail. Potential volunteers will be contacted by phone or email to schedule a meeting and/or training session. The actual form to submit is on page 2 of this document.
A producer determines what articles are read and in what order. Articles may be cut from the newspaper and/or printed from the Internet using the newspaper websites. The board operator actually operates the controls to broadcast a program. This is much simpler than it sounds! The producer/board operator also reads during the broadcast, alternating the reading of articles with a “Reader”. Volunteers reading at the Greenville studio will arrive at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours prior to broadcast time to prepare the program. He or she then reads for one hour for readings. Volunteers reading at the New Bern studio will arrive 1 to 1.5 hours prior to the live broadcast. On weekdays, live broadcast will run 1.5 hours and On Sundays, 2 hours.
Total time per Event: Greenville studio, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Total time per event: New Bern Studio, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
This volunteer reads the selected news articles out loud on the air with the producer/board operator, so good reading skills and enunciation are important. Most articles are read “cold” or without the opportunity to read them before the live broadcast. Readers arrive as indicated above and assist with cutting out articles to be read each day.
A volunteer can work as often as they wish; some people volunteer one day per month, others once a week. Volunteers are needed for the following live broadcasts:
#1 Reading the Washington Daily News and Kinston Free Press
Broadcast Times: 12-1 PM, Monday-Friday
Location: Greenville RSS studio, 3005 Memorial Drive
Volunteer Time: Monday-Friday: 11 AM – 1 PM
#2 Reading the New Bern Sun Journal
Broadcast Times: 2:30-4 PM Monday-Saturday, 3-5 PM Sunday
Location: New Bern RSS studio, 1351 Colony Drive, at Digity Companies, LLC.
Volunteer Time: Monday-Saturday: 1:15 - 4 PM, Sunday: 2-5 PM
#3 Reading the Greenville Daily Reflector
Broadcast Times: 4-5 PM, Monday - Friday
Location: Greenville RRS studio, 3005 Memorial Drive
Volunteer Time: Monday-Friday: 3-5 PM
If you want to read from New Bern, please fill out the form on this page and send it to us. Please remember to specify whether you are interested in reading in Greenville or New Bern. We will be in touch with you as soon as possible.