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Philanthropy Friday: VOICEcorps

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Created by three men who were blind, VOICEcorps began in 1975 as the Central Ohio Radio Reading Service. Living with visual impairments, Irwin Hott, Fred Allemeier and Stanley Doran were not able to use standard print to fulfill their need for daily information. Because of this, they wanted to fill the gap with a solution to that problem not only for themselves, but also for all people throughout central Ohio who could not access print. On November 17, 1975 they went on the air with their first broadcast bestowing them the distinction of being the first ever reading service founded by people who are blind. Since then, the organization has grown becoming a 24-hour service in 1992 and changing to VOICEcorps in 2004.

Daily Broadcasts To Individuals With Visual, Physical and/or Learning Disabilities

VOICEcorps provides broadcast on a 24-hour/seven days per week basis to people with blindness, visual impairments and other disabilities that cannot use or access the printed word. Broadcasts may be heard within a 50-mile radius of Columbus on 89.5 FM using a special receiver obtained from VOICEcorps. Eleven area hospitals also carry VOICEcorps on various channels.

As the reading service for the central Ohio region, they also connect people with disabilities using the Ohio Telephone Reader, a telephone-based, computer-voiced service that allows people with disabilities to access articles and information from Ohio’s major newspapers. Call their business office at 614.274.7650 to register for an Ohio Telephone Reader.

More Than Just Reading the Paper

VOICEcorps programs cover a wide variety of topics ranging from health and fitness, sports, computers, gardening, business, politics, women’s and men’s issues, decorating, cooking, celebrity news, TV listings, hunting, religion, and travel. Programming includes information from the region’s daily and weekly newspapers, including The Columbus Dispatch, outlying area newspapers such as the Delaware Gazette, and Springfield News-Sun and other regional papers. Some other information that volunteers read comes from The Wall Street Journal, Columbus Monthly, Time, Newsweek, and People.

VOICEcorps offers many feature programs including a daily exercise program, and weekly readings of local grocery and retail advertisements. The Morning Exchange, an award-winning weekday talk show, delves into all matters of current information as well as helpful topics including a Support Group of the Air that has been hosted by two long-time listeners and covers subjects of interest to people with blindness. To see a complete program schedule click here.

Fundraising Is Critical

Due to United Way’s narrowing its areas of focus, VOICEcorps will no longer be a United Way Agency as of December 31, 2009. Fundraising is a critical aspect of their daily operations as a nonprofit organization and depends on support from the community.

They are currently gearing up to launch “Small Businesses with Big Hearts” giving campaign through which VOICEcorps seeks to partner with small businesses in their service area for small monetary gifts that, when combined together, can make a significant impact in assisting to fulfill their mission. If members of the community know of businesses that might be interested in helping in this endeavor, contact the office at 614.274.7650.

VOICEcorps also hosts Care-Athon, a week long, annual fundraiser geared toward listeners and volunteers that takes place in March. As a kick-off to their Care-Athon Week, VOICEcorps features a Celebrity Read-In, a day welcoming members of the media as well as other Columbus leaders and notables to the studios to read for 15-minute segments during the regular broadcast day. In the past, VOICEcorps has enjoyed having Mayor Coleman, Columbus City Council members, area musicians, Columbus Dispatch reporters, and news anchors from Columbus’ television and radio world stop by.

Become A Volunteer

Volunteers are always welcome and there are plenty of opportunities Not only do they need readers of newspapers, magazines and other publications, but VOICEcorps periodically needs assistance with their newsletter, mass mailings and office assistance during staff lunchtimes. Teams of volunteers are currently being created for the “Small Businesses with Big Hearts” giving campaign and Speakers Bureau volunteers are used to help raise public awareness. In 2008, 250 dedicated volunteers logged in excess of 10,000 volunteer hours of reading and other activities in support of VOICEcorps. For more information on becoming a VOICEcorps volunteer click here.

Next year VOICEcorps will be celebrating their 35th anniversary. To learn more about this organization visit their website at VoiceCorps.org.

To read a touching behind the scenes story and to see a few more photos visit InKindConnection.com.

Philanthropy Friday is a feature article by Michele Savoldi that will highlight a Columbus area non-profit organization every other week.

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