The most important thing about choosing a place to volunteer consistently is to choose an activity that you already love. Since childhood, I have loved words. You could not drag me away from a book if you tried, but my favorite thing to do with words is to read them out loud. That makes being a volunteer reader a perfect fit for me.
WYPL is a radio station broadcast by the Memphis Public Library. Volunteers read books (broadcast in installments), magazines, and several different newspapers everyday. The idea is that people who are visually impaired deserve to stay current despite their inability to read. Of course, other people listen in as well. After all, that’s how I found out about this opportunity– I just happened to tune in on a road-trip one day. The potential number of people impacted is huge, with a signal ranging from North Central Mississippi to the boot heel of Missouri and from Central Arkansas to the Tennessee River.
From what I understand, assisted living communities will often have the radio on for their elderly patrons to gather around and listen to the news in the mornings. Because the news comes out daily, it doesn’t really make sense to record it every day, so the station has us read live on the air. I have the privilege of reading the Commercial Appeal on Saturday mornings from 8 to 10:30am.
Reading live is a bit of an honor. I can’t believe the station trusts volunteer readers so much. I do my best not to editorialize with my tone, and I try to look up words that I have never pronounced before if time allows. This is great because I learn how to say words like “indefatigable” and “pastiche” which I may have never bothered to look up if I were just reading the paper on my own. Otherwise, I tend to know how to pronounce things. In order to be a reader, one must record a demo tape, which includes a list of deceptively pronounced words and technical terms. Being the word nerd that I am, this was fun for me.
The station is located inside the Main Public Library between Poplar and Walnut Grove. With the station broadcasting 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they are always looking for volunteers. WYPL’s call letters stand for “Your Public Library,” and that’s how we should feel about it. The library provides so many services to so many people; it is the perfect place to volunteer.