“Our volunteers are the nicest people in the world.”
This week I am happy to shine a big spotlight on the SightLine Reading Service and a few of the special people that make such a service possible. SightLine provides local and national content, read daily by volunteers, for the benefit of the visually impaired or otherwise disabled in the Pensacola area.
“SightLine is an important service,” shared Bette Boddy, “and it’s also not very well known, which is unfortunate because it’s free.” Mrs. Boddy, a retired social worker, has volunteered with the program since 2000. “It helps people who might not normally have access to the newspaper and other literary sources. I think that’s terribly important.”
Ed Boddy has also volunteered with SightLine since 2000 when he retired from Verizon. Mr. Boddy explains that listeners tune in for a variety of reasons, including disabilities such as dyslexia or macular degeneration as well as blindness or quadriplegia. “There are other members of our community who are homebound for various reasons,” Mr. Boddy noted. “SightLine is a resource … to keep them in touch with the happenings, most importantly in their community, but also around the world.”
SightLine has been available in Pensacola for many years through WSRE and Pensacola State College (formerly Pensacola Junior College). However, in 2011, state funding for public broadcasting dried-up causing WSRE to cut SightLine from its programming. Sadly, budget cuts affected more than just Pensacola residents. In fact, not many reading services are left in the state of Florida.
Fortunately, SightLine was rescued by public radio station WUWF. With the help of generous sponsors and many volunteers, WUWF restored this vital service which is now thriving in its new home on the UWF campus.
SightLine Assistant Coordinator, Lynda Sizemore, first became involved with SightLine when her husband told her about an advertisement he heard on the radio. “[He] said, ‘Hey, you could do that!’ I had been very ill for a number of years. I was at the point where I was feeling better, but not up to doing anything major.” Sizemore said to herself, “I’ve got to do something for somebody so I feel like I have a purpose in life. I have to find something to do because I just can’t sit and do nothing. I couldn’t! It was bad for me.”
SightLine provides national publications through Gatewave (Audio for Independent Living), while local volunteers read the Pensacola News Journal daily from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., with rebroadcast throughout the day. “I’m a newsy kind of person and I like to keep abreast of what’s happening around the world and in the community,” shared Mr. Boddy, explaining why he loves reading the PNJ. “Especially for the community, the Pensacola News Journal is really a major source of information.”
Mr. Boddy would like to see more young people volunteer as readers. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for… high school students who are highly verbal,” he said, “it gives them an opportunity to build their verbal skills, increase their vocabulary, and feel good about themselves.”
In addition to the Pensacola News Journal and other news sources, SightLine offers Sunday Selections of volunteer read novels starting at 2 p.m. Content for children is also available during the Children’s Hour every Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday at 3 p.m. “I love the children’s books! They’re fun because you can get into character and just have fun with it. It’s just exciting,” Sizemore said.
A new addition to the Children’s Hour is Readers Theater. “…my husband said ‘we ought to do something like the old style radio shows’ and I thought, well, maybe we could do something with Children’s Hour,” Sizemore explained, and that’s exactly what she did. Check out the first Reader’s Theater airing at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 30th, with a rebroadcast on Sunday, July 31st and Wednesday, August 3rd.
Even though Mr. and Mrs. Boddy make regular monetary donations to WUWF, volunteering time means a lot to them. “My wife and I have been very blessed with our lives. We’re now retired and doing well. This was an opportunity to do something I was good at and at the same time provide a service for the community,” Mr. Boddy added, “so I jumped on the opportunity and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
“I think it is our personal responsibility to give something back to society,” expressed Mrs. Boddy. “We all take from society, all of us. If we don’t give back, lots and lots of stuff is not going to get done and lots and lots of services are not going to be rendered.” Mrs. Boddy, in addition to her 16 years of volunteerism, plans to leave a generous portion of her estate to WSRE but advises, “Don’t just give your money. That’s not enough.” Adding, “What is important is the time. An individual’s time is worth more than any amount of money.”
Such an amazing service can only be possible through the efforts of amazing people. “Our volunteers are the nicest people in the world,” shared Sizemore. “We have committed volunteers.”
“I’ve met some pretty incredible people doing it. I’ve met Lynda,” said Mrs. Boddy “It’s been wonderful since they moved it out here [WUWF]. The people here at this station … they’re all amazing! I like coming here just to be around them. It’s not near as much fun for me to read the paper at home.” added Mrs. Boddy.
SightLine Reading Services are available every day, click here for a schedule of programs and times. If you would like to volunteer, contact Lynda Sizemore, SightLine Assistant Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact Lynne Marshall, Events and Outreach Director, at email@example.com for more information.
As always, if you know of a person or organization that has made an impact on the community, please nominate them for this series. Email me at Rebecca.Carlson1984@gmail.com with the subject line “Spotlight: Philanthropy” and a brief description of the nominee’s achievements.