By now our listeners are very familiar with our mission: “Turning the written word into the spoken word so that the blind, print handicapped, and those who cannot read for whatever reason can be every bit as informed as their sighted peers.” The spoken word is what comes through the speakers when you tune in to 88.3 FM any time of the day or night, thanks to the time and effort given by our cadre of faithful and talented volunteers. Without the spoken word, WRBH wouldn’t be what it is–a source of information and entertainment for a large part of the sighted population of New Orleans, and a veritable lifeline to a core group of individuals who rely on our station to be the major source of their connection to the outside world. We may be a small station in the city, but we play a big role in the lives of listeners who depend on us. The “spoken word” is that important to them.
Which brings me back to the written word–this week we received some letters with words of encouragement and gratitude that meant as much to us as the spoken word means to our listeners. It all started with the membership letter, which is sent out once a year asking for donations from our listeners, our supporters, and the general public to keep us on the air. This year’s letter offered a wonderful incentive to donate to WRBH: Garden District Bookshop graciously agreed to offer a 10% discount on books to anyone who responds to the call and makes a monetary donation to the station. The wonderfully generous offer certainly struck a chord with many who sent checks, but what also made a huge difference was the text of the letter itself, eloquently written by Patrick Browne III, son of the remarkable Pat Browne, for whom our annual golf tournament is named. In case you are not familiar with Pat Browne, let me just say he is exceptional in many ways; as a businessman, as a leader in the community, as an athlete and accomplished golfer, and as a wise and gracious mentor to the station. The fact that Pat is also blind did not interfere with the many roles he has played throughout his life. As young Patrick states in his letter:
“My father, Pat Browne, has been blind since 1966, and I can personally attest to the joy he continues to experience on a daily basis listening to WRBH. As a kid, I remember seeing him start each day by listening to the Times-Picayune in the mornings and ending his day with entertaining books at night. On the weekends, we would listen to the Tulane baseball games together on WRBH, and I could see the happiness it brought him as he was a star baseball player in his youth. Throughout high school, I volunteered at the station, reading sports magazines on the air, with my dad’s listening ear in mind throughout the process…my dad has turned his handicap into a positive attribute by persevering through a tough situation to become the most successful blind golfer of all time, amassing over 65 blind golf tournaments worldwide.”
Patrick’s loving words and the obvious bond between father and son inspired some recipients of the letter to write to us, wanting to share their own experiences and impressions. Here is a note from listener Rene Rouqe:
” I did not realize how unique this radio station is until I read the letter accompanying this solicitation! I am fortunate in not having to avail myself of your services; but I do enjoy some of your programming like theatrical presentations and the “Golden Age of Radio”. I admire your functioning as finding a real need in the community; forge ahead and keep us entertained!”
And then there was the special thanks sent by Beth Utterback of WYES to all of the readers at WRBH, in honor of her mother, Verna Arroyo:
Dear WRBH Volunteer Readers, Staff, and Board Members,
This donation is in honor of my mom, Verna Arroyo, who listens to WRBH from 30-40 hours a week. Mom is almost completely blind now and has not been able to read for several years. When I told my mom that I was sending in a check for your fundraising drive, she said, “Please tell them how much they mean to me and how much I appreciate them. I almost don’t even mind being blind because I have all of them to read to me every day.”
After she said that, I had to go to the next room to cry because in spite of her many disabilities, she continues to have an incredibly positive and thankful attitude and spirit. I know it’s a sacrifice to take time out of your day and drive to WRBH to read. But I want you to know that it has a huge impact on so many people who would not otherwise have all of that information if it wasn’t for you.
Beth Arroyo Utterback
P.S. Mom gets especially excited when she hears my husband Terry read!
We put copies of Beth’s letter in every studio so that the volunteers could read for themselves how important they are to us, but especially so they would know how important they are for those who CANNOT read for themselves.
if you are interested in receiving a copy of the membership letter, and obtaining a card for 10% off any book purchase at Garden District Bookshop with a donation to WRBH, please contact the station at 504-899-1144.