New York native Deirdre MacGuire is celebrating 45 years of distinguished public media volunteer service with The WNET Group, which creates and delivers PBS television and programming for the Tri-State area of New York. The WNET Group interviewed MacGuire about her favorite volunteer projects and why she keeps coming back year after year.
What brought you to the WNET Group?
The very first auction in 1975, broadcast from Astoria Studios in Queens. I had bought something on the air and when I went out to pick it up the canteen was short staffed and I had to scoop ice cream. The rest is history! I was unable to work at the 1976 auction, but in the winter of 1977 I joined the Auction Bureau for Volunteer Recruitment, the origin of the Volunteer Department. In those early years the auction ran 10 days, 12-13 hours on air, two to three shifts of volunteers in a variety of jobs, approximately 150 volunteers per shift.
What are some of your favorite volunteer projects over the years?
I loved interacting and helping with the public – children, parents and teachers read rainbow and Ready to learn Outreach, as well as the Teen Leadership Institute and Human Rights 101.
But the Student Arts Festival changed my life. I’ve traveled all over the Tristate region with our art shows and even to Haiti on an international exchange; and I found a calling through it. I worked on the Arts Festival from 1984 until it ended in 1994, with a retrospective of the art of all those years. Assisting in curating art exhibits for K-12 children inspired me to study Expression Therapy and start a private art therapy practice.
What are your favorite public media shows?
I always check what FRONTLINE is producing – just watching From Jesus to Christ. I guess PBS NewsHour and MetroFocus for their extensive reporting on international and local issues. I am in love Find your roots (airs on Tuesdays) and am always entertained and informed by Antiques Roadshow (aired on Mondays).
What has kept you attached to the WNET Group for so many years?
The mission, the product and the people. There is so much television content to choose from, many of which I sample daily, but I can always rely on public television to entertain, inform and intrigue. And it has been a pleasure to work with so many talented and dedicated people, both staff and volunteers. I’ve made lifelong friends from both lines over the years.
They also volunteer at the Central Park Conservancy. Tell us why volunteering is important to you.
Volunteering is more than a way to fill idle time. It can help define a purpose in life. Volunteering can bring personal growth, satisfaction, enrichment, education and a sense of community. The Central Park Conservancy, where I started volunteering in 2009, is like WNET in that if you offer to help, they’ll let you work. Not all organizations are willing to trust volunteers with a lot of responsibility. Both organizations have volunteers and staff working side-by-side, and both offer a place to learn while giving back. Gardening with the CPC may not be glamorous, but it’s necessary and rewarding work, both personally and for the public – and so much more fun than going to a gym to get some exercise! As with WNET, I’ve met wonderful people, both staff and volunteers, and I’ve learned so much about the great outdoors in and from the city.
What are you reading?
Amanda Gorman’s collection of poems Call Us What We Carry so incredibly moving! “Letters of Note: New York City” compiled by Shaun Usher, a collection of letters by and about New Yorkers through the decades. Recently completed: a book of remarkable stories called ‘The Shell Collector’ by Anthony Doerr and also Elton John’s funny and seedy autobiography ‘Me’. (See the National Poetry Month selection on the Thirteen.org home page.)
To learn more about volunteering at The WNET Group and to send us a message, please visit our volunteer page.