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April 11, 2016

Meet Volunteer Shirley L.

Tell us about your beginnings here at WNET. How did you come to volunteer at WNET? Why did you decide to volunteer? How long have you been here? Do you also volunteer at other organizations?

I came to volunteer at WNET simply by luck. In the late 1970s, my daughter was walking along 5th Avenue, saw Channel 13 soliciting membership, and decided to sign up to volunteer. Unfortunately my daughter had already returned to college in Denver by the time Channel 13 called on her to volunteer. I told the station she was not available, but that I would take her place. It’s been 39 years, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I took that phone call.

I have two daughters, three grandchildren, and a caring husband that I’ve known since I was 12. However WNET is like a second family to me. I am fortunate that I get to work with such wonderful people here. At other organizations, volunteers are paid in perks of the company.  At WNET, you are paid with respect, which as a volunteer I really appreciate. The perk is coming in every morning!

I work in Member & Viewer Relations. I have been here for so long that I have taken on the role of “executive volunteer.” I feel responsible for what happens in the group that I work in. If anyone needs help, I’m glad to assist them.

What is your favorite WNET program and why?

As a person who used to go antiquing, Antiques Roadshow is a passion of mine. I also really enjoy the cooking shows, musicals, and sometimes opera, but only because my daughter used to be an opera singer. Everyone likes Doc Martin (I cannot wait for the upcoming premiere of next season), and who doesn’t love Keeping Up Appearances?! I am drawn to the mysteries as well.

Do you have a favorite or interesting story about working in public television?

I have noticed significant changes working at WNET for so long. For example, we used to get a lot more regular paper mail; all that changed with the creation of e-mail. The mail we used to get was unique and thoughtful; many of them were “love letters.” It has always been the norm to personally respond to all inquiries. I remember one woman writing, “I am 99 years old, and you better answer me fast!” We never skip a phone call, voicemail, or written inquiry to the station.  The only time we don’t answer is when the viewer curses.  We will not respond to that type of behavior!

A favorite story I can recall was about a man named Lester, a member/viewer of Channel 13. He loved Bing Crosby, and I would inform him when his upcoming shows were to be broadcast. Lester wrote, “If you send me the full schedule of Bing Crosby for the year, I will send you an autographed photo of Crosby.” Well, I sent out the schedule, and sure enough I received a photo — of Lester holding the autographed photo of Bing Crosby. I will never forget that, or the bubkey hat Lester was wearing.

Do you have a favorite hobby or special interest? Tell us about it!

I like to work with my hands. I make collages with tissue paper, which kind of look like oil paintings and take about a year to complete. The can take the form of still life, an artist in a studio, a wall with flowers.

My hobby? WNET of course!

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