Thursday, October 18, 2007

A new world comes to life when readers volunteer to read for the visually impaired!

Their dedication to others starts on the pages of the Globe Gazette and ends by illuminating the world for those who cannot see it for themselves.Kathy Jones and Jan Rasmussen, both of Mason City, are readers for the Iowa Radio Reading Information Service for the Blind and Print Handicapped, Inc.

Thanks to them and other IRIS readers, the visually impaired are able to audibly “read” the newspaper.For that service, the pair will receive the 2007 Governor’s Volunteer Award on Oct. 31 in Storm Lake.“If I couldn’t read, how awful it would be not to be able to read the newspaper,” said Rasmussen, 69. “That’s all I thought of, how much I would miss the newspaper.

So I volunteered.”Twice a month, the women come to KCMR studios and join a fellow IRIS volunteer to read articles from 8 to 9 a.m.Those who use the service have special radios to hear the broadcast, sent over a frequency that only they can receive. The radios are given free of charge.Jones, 66, heard about the service through a friend.“I tried it and ended up liking it, so I kept going,” she said.Reading of the news is “traded off” between two readers for an hour. Articles on the front and North Iowa pages are read, as well as the Opinion page, obituaries and some sports stories.

Both Jones and Rasmussen most often read with Ralph Cassady.Cassady — who earned the award last year — called both women “faithful” in their service.“We work together so well,” he said. “It really does go like clockwork. They come in at 7:45 a.m., we chat a few minutes about who will do what, and off we go,” he said.Rasmussen said she was a bit apprehensive during her first few turns at the microphone, but “I made it through,” she said with a chuckle.

“What’s really nice is that it’s actually pretty easy — but it doesn’t take a large amount of time. But you’re still doing something worthwhile for someone else,” Rasmussen said.Jones counted herself doubly lucky to be able to read. Shortly after she began, she suffered a brain aneurysm that required surgery.Several months later, however, she was back at the microphone.

Jane Ginapp, volunteer coordinator for the service, was astounded to see Jones return to service.For Jones, it was a way of giving back.“I am so appreciative of my sight, since my optic nerves were damaged during the aneurysm,” she said. “By the grace of God, I made it through.”


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