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Must-see TV

Thanks to Maris Grove’s in-house studio and volunteers

Created date

February 20th, 2017
On the set at Maris Grove’s in-house TV studio, resident and on-air host Laura Searls confers with Community TV Coordinator Tyler Dougherty about an interview. Resident George Lewis (front) will work the camera during the interview.

On the set at Maris Grove’s in-house TV studio, resident and on-air host Laura Searls confers with Community TV Coordinator Tyler Dougherty about an interview. Resident George Lewis (front) will work the camera during the interview.

On his way to Sunday brunch at Maris Grove with his grandmother, Tyler Dougherty would walk past the community’s in-house TV studio without a second thought. That is, until he saw a job posting there two years ago.

Because he had experience at a local radio station and a degree in broadcast journalism from Temple University, he applied. 

“I was blown away by the capabilities and functionality of the studio,” he says. It had recently upgraded to a more digital workflow, which enabled the station, MGTV, to create more diverse programming. 

“The equipment here is state of the art,” says Dougherty, who got the job as community TV coordinator. 

It’s unique for a retirement community to boast an in-house TV station. It’s even more unique that residents, about 50 volunteers in all, comprise the on-air and technical crews. Dougherty and co-coordinator Taylor Van Nest are the only staff. 

Unexpected, enviable opportunities

Maris Grove community members needn’t have television experience. Dougherty and Van Nest provide all the training. 

“Residents help with hosting, filming, producing, directing, and editing,” Dougherty says. “They’re also our eyes and ears. They bring us ideas. We collaborate with them and use our equipment to capture and convey those ideas on the air. We consider MGTV to be our residents’ source of information about Maris Grove and the larger community.”

MGTV’s flagship program Through the Lens airs every Monday through Friday. Resident volunteers host the news-talk show and interview its guests. 

Those guests range from residents and staff to people of note in the larger community. 

The station also covers Maris Grove’s town hall meetings and produces medical and wellness-themed programs featuring interviews with physicians from its on-site medical center and fitness experts from its fitness center.

Through the Lens volunteer photographers even take their cameras off site to film documentaries of area businesses, attractions, or historical sites beyond Maris Grove’s gates. Recent subjects included a local orchard and a brewery.

Exciting gig

When the filming is complete, control room volunteers transform it into a TV show. 

Phil Hoffman operates one of the station’s cameras. 

For years now, Phil has sung with local choruses and participated in community theater. He aimed to add a different sort of pursuit when the Hoffmans moved to Maris Grove. 

“I wanted something technically interesting,” Phil says. “Each studio gig is something new in terms of guests, topics, and discussions. It’s never boring and there’s a product at the end of it.”

Bottom line? “It’s fun,” says Phil.

Laura Searls is an on-air host who has earned a reputation as a thoughtful interviewer. A number of years ago she’d performed in local theater groups, so she feels comfortable in front of a camera. And she likes that interviewing makes her use her brain.

“Hosting is challenging and forces me to really think as I interview,” Laura says. “And when a guest says something off the cuff, it guarantees the interview will take an interesting turn.”

Laura doesn’t play bocce or pickleball. She doesn’t do Wii bowling. She’s found her fit at the TV station and in her role as associate editor of the campus newspaper, NeighborNews.

Those involvements make her feel she’s keeping up with happenings in greater depth and that she’s contributing to the community in a vital way. 

“When Erickson Living says that their communities add more living to your life, that’s exactly true,” Laura says. “We’re not just alive, we’re living in terms of new experiences and new people. Maris Grove works for everyone.”

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