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Home  >  Reading and Writing  >  Reading Out Loud
The Shopping Cart Ladies
By Valorie Guadagno

On Wednesday afternoons, Marilyn Wakeland and Betty Broste have a live AIRRES radio show on which they star as the "Shopping Cart Ladies." Call them the "Click and Clack" of where you can find the best grocery sales, their job is to read supermarket ads from start to finish! What they do is an important community resource produced by AIRRES.

What is AIRRES? It's short for Alaska Independent Radio Reading and Educational Services. Conceived in 1982, and brought to life four years later, AIRRES is a public radio station that provides a unique service for blind and print impaired Alaskans. This closed-circuit station is broadcast on a sub-carrier frequency of Anchorage's KSKA public radio station, which means people need a special receiver to pick up the broadcast. It is run by a small staff of blind and print impaired Alaskans and a much larger group of Alaskan volunteers with heart, commitment, and the gift of sight. Volunteers read live on the air and also tape segments for later broadcast, which is what the Shopping Cart Ladies do. The shows keep listeners up to date on everything from national and local news to what's on sale at the local grocery stores. Betty attributes much of the grocery store program's success to Marilyn. "Marilyn's the spark plug," Betty says.

Marilyn Wakeland

For Marilyn (in photo), a vibrant and energetic 75-year old grandmother of four and great-grandmother of four, the volunteer opportunity at AIRRES nurtures her love of reading and her sense of humor, the very things that make her show a very special form of "informative entertainment." Laughter, joking, impersonations, and "meow" and "bow wow" punctuation marks for the pet food sales, all lend to the show's popularity and community contribution.

Marilyn, who has been a volunteer for 15 years, enjoys her work at AIRRES and the community of volunteers. "It gives back to me what I give to it." Betty, who has been a volunteer for five years, agrees: "I'm glad to help the people who are sight impaired." They both enjoy the sense of family. "There's sociability here," Marilyn says. "The people are really nice, it's like a family."

AIRRES is always in need of volunteers. Opportunities include fundraising projects, office tasks, transporting blind or print impaired listeners to meetings and gatherings, delivery of special receivers to new listeners and, of course, diverse opportunities for on-air reading: the daily paper, magazines, books, or the possibility of other unique shows like The Shopping Cart. One can also help produce interviews, special features, radio drama or holiday specials. For more information call 563-2121 and ask for Lynne Korral, the program director.

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