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Quality community programming

Volunteers play important role at Oak Crest's in-house TV studio

Created date

March 14th, 2018
Nick Nichols and Anne O’Connor are two of the almost 60 community members who volunteer at Oak Crest’s on-site television station.

Oak Crest’s on-site television station is run by community member volunteers.

It’s unique for a retirement community to boast an in-house TV station. It’s even more unique that its residents comprise the on-air and technical crews, unless, of course, you’re talking about Oak Crest’s WOCV Channel 973.

Fifty-six volunteers along with three full-time staff keep the Parkville, Md., Erickson Living community’s station humming, as they do everything from operating the video cameras to hosting hundreds of shows each year. WOCV is an integral part of Oak Crest, and the volunteers are an indispensable part of its success.

“At a time in their lives when most people are looking to settle down and relax, the dedication and persistence of the residents who make WOCV a success is quite admirable,” says WOCV Station Manager Joshua Runkles.

“There are a wide variety of opportunities to get involved in,” he adds. “We have a small army of dedicated volunteers who run the cameras, host and produce shows, film and run sound and lighting for special concerts around campus, run the control room during on-site chapel services, do voiceovers for the talking bulletin board, deliver TV guides, spell and grammar check bulletin boards.”

Hands-on training

With no prior experience necessary, volunteers learn everything they need to know on the job.

“Ninety-nine percent of our volunteers have never set foot in a television studio before they moved to Oak Crest,” says Runkles. “We offer introductory classes for new volunteers, but most of the learning is done on the fly. They manage to come in and pick things up within a few days.”

As a teenager, Oak Crest resident John Barnold enjoyed photography as a hobby. Later he worked as a photographer for the Baltimore City Crime Lab before retiring as a captain. Like most community members, John’s journey with WOCV began with his pursuit to find “something to get involved in.”

“I was already familiar with the cameras, and it was just a matter of learning their setup. It was pretty quick,” says John. “I work on one to two shows a month. It’s a great group of people. It’s interesting, entertaining, and you feel like you’re helping out a lot.”

Entertaining and educational lineup

Runkles says they strive to both educate and entertain WOCV viewers through programs like Legal Line, which features live legal advice from attorneys; The Lighthouse, a monthly program that focuses on religion and faith; Volunteer Focus; Travel Corner; coverage of town hall meetings, as well as medical and wellness-themed programs featuring interviews with physicians from Oak Crest’s medical center and fitness experts from the on-site fitness center.

“We also have a Media Arts Committee that produces live holiday performances, comedy shows, debate shows, etc.,” says Runkles. “Our highest-rated show is our yearly Benevolent Care Fund telethon.”

The Benevolent Care Fund is dedicated to supporting residents who experience a genuine and unforeseen change in their financial situation. Runkles says months of work go into making the one show a success—live musical performances, famous guests, and on-air competitions keep people watching for three to four hours straight. This year’s telethon raised $77,000.

When he’s not taking photos for the community’s resident-run newspaper The Observer, Le Roy Stoll films events in the community and works one of three cameras in the TV studio.

“I have always liked being behind the camera,” says Leroy, who volunteers two to three times a week. “Growing up, my father had a movie camera, and we would film every Christmas and every trip we took.”

Leroy says one of the fascinating things about working behind the camera is meeting the different people who come into the studio.

“The very first time I volunteered at WOCV, one of our state senators was a guest on one of the programs. I became so interested in what they were talking about, it was hard to focus on operating the camera,” laughs Leroy.

Although WOCV’s audience and budget are just a fraction of the area’s major television stations, Runkles uses everything at his disposal to stay current.

“We research the industry, take periodic editing and production courses, and stay in contact with vendors to make sure we are doing everything we can, within our budget, to keep the studio up to date and to provide quality programming,” says Runkles. “It is also nice knowing that other Erickson Living communities are just a phone call away should we want to compare notes.”