CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – For about 15 years, Mary Barnas has spent part of her week in the studio at the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service.
"I just enjoy reading, always have,” said Barnas. “When I happened to find out about this, I thought, 'Well, that's something I can do...and help other people who can't read.'"
About 300 volunteers just like her are part of what's kept NFRRS on the air for three decades.
"Our motto is 'Give the blind a chance to read.' And I think that, simply stated, is what we've been doing for 30 years," said NFRRS President Robert Sikorski.
Books, magazines, newspapers and community information are all read by volunteers and broadcast on a special frequency to radios given out by the service. The station is available 24/7, and all listeners have to do is adjust the volume.
The service makes it a point to feature the newest novels and publications available, and volunteers say they try to bring their own special something to their assignments.
"I change my voice to suit the character when they're speaking, and when it's just narration, I use my own voice. So, it's kind of fun," said volunteer Diane Cammarata.
From their headquarters in Cheektowaga, the reading service can be heard in Buffalo, Western New York, and in southern Ontario's Niagara Peninsula. While thousands of radios have been given out, the group's president says it's hard to say how many people are tuning in, but he says volunteers are providing a priceless service.
"I remember one listener telling me she was afraid to engage in conversations. Now, she leads them," said Sikorski.
A connection to the printed word and the world the service has provided to countless listeners through 250,000 hours of readings and counting.
The radio reading service is a not-for-profit that relies on donations of both money and time. To learn more about getting involved, visit this website.