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This article by Jamie Saxon was prepared for the April 21, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

15 Minutes of Fame, Recording Studio and All

They come from Merrill Lynch, Bristol Myers Squibb, ETS, FMC, Johnson & Johnson, and Computer Sciences Corporation. They come from Mason Griffin and Pierson, the University Medical Center at Princeton, the Hillier Group, and Mainsail Associates. They are architects, computer specialists, lawyers, health care professionals, people from virtually every sector of the business world. Some come as a family, like the Ragavans of West Windsor — Chet works for Merrill Lynch; his wife, Savi, works for GE Healthcare; and their twin daughters, Kavita and Preeta, are juniors at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North.

All have found a unique way to use their professional expertise or foreign language skills — in a state-of-the-art, all digital sound booth.

They are among the more than 400 volunteers for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic of New Jersey. In conjunction with National Volunteer Week, RFB&D holds its 10th annual record-a-thon with an open house and tours every day this week — Bloomberg and Lucent Technologies have sent in their own volunteers to help out during the event. Hours are Wednesday through Friday, April 21 to 23, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, April 24, from 9 a.m. to noon.

The record-a-thon helps RFB&D both to raise awareness of the organization’s mission — to make the printed word accessible for students from kindergarten through graduate school who cannot read standard print effectively because of a visual, learning, or othe physical disability — and to help prepare for the upcoming fall semester.

Celebrity readers this week include poet Paul Muldoon, author Peter Benchley, Representative Rush Holt, historian Henry Louis Gates, New York Times reporter Gina Kolata, physicist Freeman Dyson, and Princeton University president Shirley M. Tilghman, who is also honorary chair.

“A lot of people don’t realize that there are a number of ways to volunteer that don’t involve actually recording the books,” says Sandi Wilson, director of development for RFB&D of New Jersey, located at 69 Mapleton Road, at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Plainsboro, and, with 12 recording booths, the largest of the 29 RFB&D units across the country .

“Since all of our books are read as if they’re being produced for someone who is blind,” says Wilson, “every picture, diagram, graph, and formula has to be described, so readers have to be able to visualize and verbalize well, and need to have subject knowledge. But we also use volunteers for pre- and post-production, and we can train for that. And we need volunteers to assist the readers in a number of different ways during recording sessions, from directing the readers to making sure they read the text correctly and don’t miss something.”

Recording for the Blind is a particularly good choice for working professionals who are interested in volunteer work, says Wilson, both because they can use their professional subject knowledge and because the studio’s hours accommodate a working schedule: Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The subject areas of the recorded books include law, computers, physics, religion, languages, medicine, psychology, literature, and history. Volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum of one one-and-a-hour session a week, preferably two.

— Jamie Saxon

Record-a-thon and open house, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic of New Jersey. Wednesday through Friday, April 21-23, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 24, 9 a.m. to noon. Visit www.rfbdnj.org for a schedule of celebrity readers and information about volunteering.


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