Public television has been providing cultural, informational, and educational programming for decades. Sesame Street helped me learn my ABCs and how to count. Mr. Rogers taught me what it meant to be a good neighbor. Reading Rainbow made reading relevant and cool. These programs were a huge part of my childhood and the childhood of many others, but PBS offers more than just kid’s programming. PBS offers shows and documentaries that promote an understanding of nature, history, science, and the performing arts. The local stations work to build and promote a sense of community by covering statewide topics. Regardless of the reason for which we watch, we all enjoy what we see. Due to this, PBS holds a special place in our hearts.
I volunteered to work the phone bank during PBS 39 of Fort Wayne’s spring pledge drive. PBS relies on the support of its members, sponsors, and community pledge drives for its revenue. During a pledge drive, the station phone numbers are scrolled across the screen to entice viewers to call. When they called on this particular night, I was the one on the other end of the line. I answered each call with “Good Evening! Thanks for calling PBS 39. May I take your pledge?” I would then gather their information and document how much they were willing to donate. I ended each call by thanking the caller for their support. For three hours, I watched television and talked on the phone. A very easy way to volunteer and help out a great organization. This short volunteer experience gave me a true view of what PBS means to our community. Many callers took time to tell me just how much they enjoy the programs offered by the station. One caller actually called in to ensure that Lawrence Welk had not been pulled off of the air. She had noticed that it was not on during the normal times and this concerned her. I was able to inform her that it would return to its normal schedule once the pledge drive ended. I am pretty sure that Lawrence Welk will never be pulled from the programming of PBS. In the words of a PBS staff member “We would have an angry mob with pitchforks and torches if Mr. Welk wasn’t available.”
As a volunteer, I want to be valued by the organization that I am serving. I want to know the organization and how my time helps them fulfill the mission. My experience with PBS 39 did just that. I was the only volunteer working the phone bank on this particular night which gave me a chance to work with Ray Steup, a director and producer for the station. He was a great ambassador for the organization. He made me feel welcome and he appreciated my service. He took time to model a few calls so that I felt comfortable with the script. He wanted me to have a great experience. He even made time to take me on a tour of the station. I really enjoyed the tour. I am a huge fan of television and getting a glimpse of the studio and the production rooms was a real treat. An organization’s success often sits on the shoulders of the employees. The energy and passion for the mission has to be present in the staff so that volunteers feel good about what they are doing. Employees like Ray make organizations a success. I enjoyed my time with PBS 39 and Ray helped make it a great experience.
Public television plays an important role in our lives. We have all been impacted at some point in our life by something we have viewed on PBS. We must find a way to give back to the stations that give us so much. These stations rely on us for support. We need to step up and continue to do our part. I encourage everyone to learn more about their local public television station. Find out how you can help. Offer a pledge or offer your time. We must do so to ensure that future generations get the same quality programming and life experiences that we have enjoyed.