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April 11, 2016

Meet Volunteer Deirdre M.

 Deirdre is honored for 35 years of service at WNET by WNEt President & CEO Neal Shapiro.Deirdre has covered all the bases at THIRTEEN. In her early years at the station she produced the weekly Culture Calendar and helped coordinate the Auction and Pledge. As if that weren’t enough, she agreed to put her boundless energy to work on the Student Arts Festival and the Teen Leadership Conference. Nowadays, Deirdre dedicates her time to special projects in the Education department. In 2013, Deirdre was honored for 35 years of volunteer service to our organization by WNET President & CEO Neal Shapiro (at right).

Tell us a little about yourself. 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?

It all started in 1975 when I went to THIRTEEN’s studios in Queens to pick up a beading kit I’d bid on during the annual Auction. I ran into an old schoolmate who was volunteering, and she asked if I could come in the next day to help. I agreed, and ended up in the canteen scooping servings of ice cream for the staff and other volunteers.

I began in earnest in February 1977, when I joined the staff that was organizing the volunteers for that year’s auction–it was a good 3 or 4 months of pre-planning before the 10-day Auction even started. In 1978 , the official Volunteer Department was created — I joined and helped organize the volunteer efforts for Pledge and the Auction for the next several years.

From the late ’70s through the early ’80s I worked closely with my colleague Patti E. (another long-time volunteer) to research and format the weekly Culture Calendar that would appear on-air. In the days before the internet, gathering the information was a real project. Although the Calendar appeared on-air as a simple typed list, it had to be precisely formatted to fit the screen. Think of it as an early version of the NYC-ARTS “Top Five Picks.”

Patti and I then transitioned to the Student Arts Festival, produced by the Education Department. Every school year we would contact the schools, encourage participation, collect and catalog the art, prepare the finalists for exhibition, and take the show on the road throughout the Tri-State region. For several years in the late 80s, the Festival opened the tour with a three-day show at Sotheby’s. It was a huge amount of work but very rewarding. The experience was the impetus for my becoming a certified Expressive Arts Therapist — I still maintain a small practice. In the mid-90s my efforts migrated to the Teen Leadership program which morphed into Human Rights 101. I really enjoyed working with junior high and high school students on projects that engaged them in ethical and moral issues of the day.

These days I volunteer helping the Education staff prepare for any projects they might be working on. In addition, I volunteer for the Central Park Conservancy — planning, pruning, cleaning, mulching — pretty much whatever is needed at any time during a given season.

What is your favorite WNET program and why?

Brideshead Revisited and the original Upstairs/Downstairs are my all-time favorites from the past. More recently I really like Finding Your Roots. Basically I always check to see what’s on Thirteen. It’s the default setting on my television.

What do you tell your friends about WNET?

It’s the most quality programming on television and I am very proud to be associated with it even if only in an ancillary way.

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

That would be the day during the Auction when I was lucky enough to get to escort both Lillian Hellman and Soupy Sales to the Green Room, not at the same time of course. Ms. Hellman was lovely but I was THRILLED to meet Soupy Sales, whom I adored.

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

I love the theater and go often. I’m also very interested in learning about horticulture and attend a lot of lectures given by the Conservancy.

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