One of the oldest and least known charitable agencies servicing Sun City is expending its services.
Recorded Recreational Reading for the Blind, which for decades published The West Valley Talking News, now publishes The Valley Talking News for the entire valley.
“We needed to expand in order to increase our listeners and donors,” said Sarah Shew, RRRB board president. “We intend to continue offering all our services for free, but after a half century of operating on a shoestring, we have almost no reserve left in the bank. We need donations, and we need bequests made through wills. So we’re expanding the area we serve”
Few people driving by RRRB’s office and studio on 99th Avenue just north of Olive Avenue are curious enough by the multi-colored RRRB logo to knock on the door. Those who do knock are greeted by friendly volunteers who show them their entire operation, including three professional sound booths. In those sound booths, volunteers record all the programs its blind and visually-impaired listeners receive each week — free of charge.
“We can also use more volunteers,” said Shew, though she is especially proud of the range and depth of the volunteers currently on staff. “Writers, actors, computer and electronics technicians, and people who worked in radio and TV now donate services they were once paid for. But we also get people coming through our door with nothing more than desire. Teachers, nurses, librarians, real estate agents, tradesmen — they love the work they do for us, and we teach them all they need to know.”
Volunteers donate nearly half the annual budget.
“Last year volunteers donated more than $20,000 out of our $50,000 annual budget. I doubt you’ll find that level of giving in any other charitable organization. Our volunteers deeply believe in what we are doing here.” said Shew.
The audience for RRRB, the blind and visually-impaired, receive what the volunteers produce in three ways. About 100 people still receive 6-hour cassettes in the mail each week.
“The cassettes are returned to us and we re-record them with the next week’s news covering local events, sports, health, science, music, dining, finances, arts and entertainment, old-time radio shows and human interest stories, and send them back to our subscribers,” said Shew.
The second, and by far most popular, way the audience accesses RRRB is through the weekly podcast, which can be gotten by going to readingfortheblind.org then clicking on the Listen tab.
The third way to access RRRB’s productions is to tune in to digital radio station KRUV Radio Sun. Google KRUV Radio Sun, click and listen.
“The heart and soul of this place is John Schumacher,” Shew explained. “For more than 20 years he’s been the reason we are so successful.”
Schumacher, who some nights stays at RRRB working until midnight, took his degree in speech and communication from Notre Dame in 1956, then worked for his father’s construction company in Indiana.
“We constructed four of Notre Dame’s buildings,” he said.
But his secret desire for decades was to be in radio. With RRRB, his wish finally came true. He does most of the training of volunteers and much of the sound engineering, sitting on one side of the booth’s window engineering the sound and directing readers to their best performance.
“But I’m getting up in years,” Schumacher said. “I need new people to replace me. I’d be happy to train them to take over.”
According to Shew, it would take half a dozen people to do everything Schumacher does. For now, the only other audio engineer is Orrin Johnson, a man who spent half his work life in the recording studio business.
“Please visit us at 9447 N. 99th Ave, Peoria. Or call us at 623-933-0985 or 623-933-4682,” Shew said. “We love showing off the wonderful, fascinating things we do — so good that some of our listeners aren’t even seeing-impaired. And it’s all free of charge. If you can donate — wow! — that would help us immensely.”