Editor's note: The author is a volunteer at New Lenox Community Television.
Volunteers for community television programs in the area have the privilege of seeing their villages through a different lens.
“You meet a lot of interesting people and you get to go to a lot of interesting events, see a lot of things," said Dean Andersen, a longtime volunteer for New Lenox's Channel 6. "You always get a front row seat and you get to really see exactly what's going on, you get to see behind the scenes.”
Those front row seats have included events such as New Lenox's Triple Play Concert Series and numerous expos, high school performances and competitions. But it's the stations in Frankfort, Mokena and New Lenox that all benefit from the help of volunteers.
“A lot of people take channel 6 for granted," Andersen said. "They come from other communities and all they usually see is bulletin boards. At least in our situation they get to see programming a lot more than other communities...because of the volunteers.”
Those volunteers in the past have numbered as many as 30 in New Lenox, many of whom came from a recruiting effort at the start of 2009. In Frankfort and Mokena, there are smaller forces of volunteers, though Frankfort's station is in the process of adding several Lincoln-Way East students to help.
Among the volunteers is Rich Orlowski, who brought with him his teenage son, Ethan. “I joined because I thought it would be interesting," Orlowski said. "I did it in college and I just wanted some way to get involved with the community.”
That involvement can vary, both in time and in skill. When Andersen initially joined the Channel 6 in Frankfort 35 years ago before coming to New Lenox 10 years later, he had very little knowledge of how to produce programming. He now has his own video production company he does on the side in addition to another full time job. All that doesn't stop him from putting in up to 20 hours a week at the TV station.
Short of actually putting programs on the air, which is covered by the stations' full-time employees, volunteers do just about everything else: videotaping, editing, hosting and even “directing” the Village Board meetings. Although a lot of program ideas come from the village or station leadership, volunteer ideas and input is always welcomed.
Volunteers aren't just learning about TV production, but also more about the communities they live in. Since joining, Orlowski said he started to get to know how the village is being run and got to know my community a lot better.
"You know more what's going on and you're more aware of what's going on in this village," he said.
Anderse quickly responds, “More volunteers,” as something he'd like to see in the future of cable access TV. And those volunteers need not have experience, just as Andersen did not all those years ago.
“I feel it's a way that you can still have fun, give something back to your community and still use your imagination to be creative," he said.
Want to volunteer?
Frankfort: Contact village spokeswoman Mary Canino or Joe Griffin with channel 6 at 815-469-2177.
Mokena: Contact Tim Franson at 708-479-3917 or email@example.com.
New Lenox: Contact station director Don Winnie at 815-462-6428 or firstname.lastname@example.org.