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Sun Cities area news ‘on the air’

Posted 6/6/17

By Rusty Bradshaw

Independent Newsmedia

Sun Cities residents, sight-impaired and otherwise, can now catch West Valley news “on the air.”

Recorded Recreational Reading for the Blind …

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Sun Cities area news ‘on the air’

By Rusty Bradshaw
Independent Newsmedia

Sun Cities residents, sight-impaired and otherwise, can now catch West Valley news “on the air.”

Recorded Recreational Reading for the Blind officials are moving ahead with some expansions to their format for KRUVradiosun following a six-month tuning up of its online radio broadcasts initiated in November. The online radio is an offshoot of a program that has been serving sight-impaired residents for 40 years.

Volunteer announcer Julie Cox working at master control of KRUVradiosun. Recorded Recreational Reading for the Blind added the radio station in November and is expanding the format after fine tuning.

“We had the equipment and we were looking for other things we could do,” said John Schumacher, KRUV program director. “We hope we are getting ahead of the curve.”

West Valley residents — and those around the world — can tune in to area news by going to the KRUVradiosun website, www.readingfortheblind.org, and click on KRUVradiosun. Broadcasts include a blended mix of eclectic music and selected features from the agency’s West Valley Talking News from its recordings for the blind. Talking News includes news items from the Independent, Daily News-Sun and other sources. Those items are recorded digitally and sent on large thumbdrives to subscribers.

“We have about 150 subscribers now,” said Mr. Schumacher.

In addition, RRRB officials are adding other features, including sports, science, finance, old-time radio shows and others. The list continues to grow as time goes on, according to Mr. Schumacher.

“We have a volunteer who seemed to find humor in just about everything that was said, so we developed a show where he was the straight man, much like Ed McMahon was for Johnny Carson,” Mr. Schumacher explained.

Another addition to the online radio format is a show, called “Are You Volunteering?”, featuring various volunteer agencies in the West Valley. Representatives of those groups are invited for interviews to tell about their organizations and how residents can get involved, Mr. Schumacher said.

“I am a second generation Sun Citian and when I visited my parents here I was constantly learning about the ‘City of Volunteers,’” Mr. Schumacher said. “Now we saw there was no voice that told about volunteering.”

As the community experienced a drop in volunteers in recent years, RRRB officials looked for a way to showcase volunteer opportunities, according to Doug Wright, president and long-time associate of the agency.

“We not only help other agencies get more volunteers, we help ourselves,” he said. “We have gained some volunteers through this feature. We are now up to about 30.”

RRRB is funded entirely through donations from service organizations, including the Lions, and individual contributions. The agency is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The agency has also built a library of about 1,400 recorded music and old-time radio show programs through donations of cassettes, which are then converted to digital format.

“We are unique because we are the only facility of this kind in the country,’ Mr. Wright said.

KRUVradiosun broadcasts 24 hours per days seven days per week. Recordings continue to be made for the subscribers of the home service. Digital recordings are delivered by mail weekly, except in August when volunteers get some time off, and one week in December.

RRRB volunteers give their time for various reasons. Julie Cox was around recording studios during her career in marketing, but her primary reason for working with RRRB was to be around those who help others.

“I have a passion to help the visually impaired,” she said.

Mr. Wright, 93, has worked with RRRB for 28 years. He said the agency started about 40 years ago when one woman took it upon herself, using a Sony recorder in her home, to record readings for sight-impaired Sun City residents and deliver them herself. A year after she started, Jim Geer joined her efforts and the agency was based in an Episcopal church. It moved to the Bell Plaza Building, on the northwest corner of Bell Road and Boswell Boulevard, in 1974 because there was no soundproof rooms at the church. RRRB moved in 1980 to its current location in the Lions complex, 9447 N. 99th Ave., after the Del Webb Corp. donated the land and built the structures at cost.

“The Lions have been very loyal supporters since then,” Mr. Wright said.

In the beginning, and until just recently, cassette and reel-to-reel equipment was used for the recordings. But when digital recording equipment and computers were purchased, it opened the door for additional services, according to Mr. Schumacher. The transition to digital began in 2006 and was completed four years later. RRRB officials added a second and third recording booth in 2012, with the help of the National Library Service.

“Our subscriber recording services, including the digital players, are provided to clients for free,” Mr. Wright said. “They are very grateful for what we provide.”

RRRB also records books for the state library, he added.

The agency’s recordings are available to residents from I-17 to the White Tank Mountains and from the Estrella Mountains to Wickenburg. Originally called “Sun City Talking News,” the recordings were changed in 2016 to “West Valley Talking News” because the news coverage and geographical area had become much larger, according to Mr. Schumacher.