New Yorker Deirdre MacGuire is celebrating an extraordinary 45 years of volunteering in public media at The WNET Group, which creates and delivers PBS television and programs to the New York tristate area. The WNET Group interviewed MacGuire about her favorite volunteer projects and what keeps her coming back year after year.
What brought you to the WNET Group?
The very first auction in 1975, broadcast from the Astoria Studio in Queens. I had purchased something on air, and when I went out there to pick it up, they were short-staffed in the canteen and I was put to work scooping ice cream. The rest is history! I could not work on the 1976 auction, but in the winter of 1977, I joined the auction volunteer recruitment office, the genesis of the Volunteer Department. In those first years the auction ran 10 days, for 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 through the years?
But the Student Arts Festival was life changing for me. I traveled all over the tristate region with our art exhibits, and even to Haiti with an international exchange; and I found a calling because of it. I worked on the Arts Festival from 1984 till it ended in 1994, with a retrospective art from all those years. Helping curate art exhibits by kids in grades K-12 inspired me to study expressive arts therapy and to form a private practice in art therapy.
What are your favorite public media shows?
I always check to see what FRONTLINE is producing- am currently watching From Jesus to Christ. I appreciate PBS NewsHour and MetroFocus for their in-depth coverage of international and local issues. I love Finding Your Roots (airs Tuesdays) and am always entertained and informed by Antiques Roadshow (airs Mondays).
What has kept you committed to The WNET Group for so many years?
The mission, the product, and the people. There is so much television content to choose from, much of which I sample on a daily basis, but I can always rely on public TV to entertain, inform, and intrigue. And it has been a pleasure to work with so many talented and dedicated folks, both staff and volunteers. I have made life-long friends over the years from both ranks.
You also volunteer with the Central Park Conservancy. Tell us why volunteerism 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 will put you to work. Not all organizations are so willing to trust volunteers with much responsibility. At both organizations, volunteers and staff work side by side, and both offer a place to learn while giving back. Horticultural work with the CPC may not be glamorous, but it is necessary and satisfying work, both personally and for the public – and so much more fun than going to a gym for exercise! As with WNET, I have met wonderful people, both staff and volunteers, and I have learned so much about nature in and of the city.
What are you currently reading?
Amanda Gorman’s poetry collection “Call Us What We Carry,” so incredibly moving! “Letters of Note: New York City” complied by Shaun Usher, a collection letters by and about New Yorkers over the decades. Recently finished: a book of remarkable stories titled “The Shell Collector” by Anthony Doerr and also Elton John’s fun and dishy autobiography, “Me.” (See National Poetry Month selections on the Thirteen.org homepage.)
To learn about volunteering at The WNET Group and send us a message, please see our Volunteers page.