On-Site TV Station Trains Charlestown Residents for Prime Time

CATONSVILLE, MD (January 6, 2014) -- With more than 300 different clubs, activities, and classes to choose from at Charlestown, the one Al Medeiros had his eye on when he moved to the Catonsville community in 2004 was the TV studio. "We moved from Heritage Harbour in Annapolis, and they had a small television studio where I volunteered as a camera man," says Al. "So after we moved to Charlestown, I stopped by the television studio and told the crew that, although I didn't have much of a background, I would love to volunteer. They said they could use all the help they could get, and now I volunteer about four days a week." Al is one of dozens of resident volunteers who host programs, develop show content, run cameras, input data for the electronic bulletin board, edit, and dress the set at Channel 972, Charlestown's in-house TV station. "We typically produce 35 to 40 regularly scheduled shows each month," says Station Manager Tom Moore. "Having the support of the residents is priceless. Since they live here in the community, they are more in tune with what's happening and can guide us as to what resonates with their friends and neighbors." Moore says residents need no prior experience to be part of the action. For Al, who is typically behind the camera, part of the fun is trying new things. "One time I went down to the station to get everything set up for one of the programs I was shooting," says Al. "Mark (one of the staff members at the station) asked if I would fill in as the news anchor. Initially I was a little nervous, but once I got in front of the camera it wasn't so bad." Dawn and John Strumsky began volunteering at the station in 2011, soon after moving from Millersville. Together, the lively couple hosts a talk show, "Our Charlestown Neighbors." During the 30-minute show, which airs twice monthly on Thursdays, John and Dawn interview their Charlestown neighbors about their travels, careers, volunteer work, and hobbies. "When we moved to Charlestown, we decided we would eat dinner with someone new every night," says John, a retired Marine. "We wanted to meet our new neighbors and really immerse ourselves in the community. We quickly discovered just how many fascinating people live and work here. Many of their stories were so interesting, we thought others would enjoy hearing them too." John recently began taping a new show called "Looking Back, Eyewitnesses to History." And Dawn delivers the weather with a twist all her own: dressing up in one of her dozens of wigs to deliver her "Wacky Weather" segments. "I've always wanted to do the weather, and at first I tried to do it professionally, but I found out the green screen just wasn't for me," says Dawn. "Now there have been so many people that have stopped me and said that I made them laugh about the weather." Marge Wareheim started out as a receptionist for the TV studio and now hosts a talk show called "Getting to Know You." "I just love it," says Marge. "I enjoy talking with different people. There are so many activities to choose from at Charlestown, and I certainly found the right one." John Fahey is no stranger to the small screen. A retired Old Dominion University professor, John appeared frequently on television news and talk shows on PBS, CBS, ABC, and NBC as a spokesperson for the Hopewell City, Va., Public School Board where he served as superintendent. "I had an idea for a program called 'Unforgettable Moments,'" says John. "The topics range from experiences that happened to me personally, as well as events that affect our country. For example, I recently did one on Russia's President Putin. I have a lot of experience with Russia because I am a Russian linguist, and I also served as a spy behind the Iron Curtain for over two years. One of the next shows I'm doing is on memory technique." Moore says Channel 973 is an integral part of Charlestown, and the volunteers are an indispensable part of its success. "The involvement is incredible," Moore says. "The residents feel like they're really a part of our team here, not just watching from the sidelines. They become part of our staff, part of our family."