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Everyday Evangelists: Ursuline junior finds God in others through volunteering

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February 25, 2011

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

 

ST. MARGARET MARY DEANERY – Most teenagers would prefer to spend Saturday mornings sleeping in. Angela Bird, a junior at Ursuline Academy in Blue Ash, is no exception.

 

Instead, she’s up early and ready for her parents to drive her to the studios of WRRS in Cincinnati where she hits the airwaves at 9 a.m. as a volunteer with Radio Reading Services. The free service of the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) makes local, national and international news accessible to those who are print impaired, reaching more than 7,000 subscribers.

Angela Bird
Angela Bird, a junior at Ursuline Academy, is on the air as volunteer with Radio Reading Services. (Courtesy photo)

“I’m not a morning person ­– quite the opposite actually,” admitted Bird, who has contributed more than 75 hours of service since becoming a volunteer in 2009. “But I enjoy what I do and the people I work with and it’s meaningful to know that people are listening and we’re helping them to stay informed.”

 

Bird, a member of St, Bartholomew Parish in Springfield Township, learned about Radio Reading Services while on a routine visit to the eye doctor. She has no personal experience with the blind or visually impaired but was looking for volunteer opportunities, and a brochure about CABVI’s services caught her eye.

 

 

“I was amazed that there is an organization in Cincinnati that does so much for this group of people,” she explained. “Plus, I like the radio a lot and have listened to public radio since I was little. It seemed like a really neat and different way to reach out to others.”

 

After a vocabulary test that involved reading a select group of words back to Sharon Weber, CABVI manager of volunteer services, and a radio audition, Bird was ready to begin broadcasting. She and two co-readers, Frieda Hughes and Ray Bollauer, cut out articles from The Cincinnati Enquirer’s arts and entertainment section and rotate reading them aloud during their one hour broadcast. Other volunteers read different sections of the Enquirer and items from various local periodicals and national publications during their time on the air. Also featured are interviews with authors and programs focused on travel talk, health news and recipes. The broadcast is carried on the side band of a local public radio station and can be heard within a 50-mile radius of downtown Cincinnati.

 

“It’s always neat to meet people who listen to the radio program,” Bird said. “I’ve heard from people who are blind or visually impaired about how much it means to them.”

 

Her efforts were recognized at CABVI’s annual volunteer appreciation event held in the fall. Bird received the organization’s Paul Silverglade Youth Award, given to a volunteer between the ages of 12 and 18.

 

“I was surprised, honored and embarrassed to received the award,” she said. “Everybody knew about it, even my parents (Stephen and Rosemary). Apparently, it’s not hard to keep a secret from me.”

 

In addition to her work with Radio Reading Services, Bird also spends most Friday afternoons after school visiting with oncology patients at Mercy Franciscan Hospital Mt. Airy. When she began volunteering as a freshman, Bird admits her primary motivation was to gain experience that would look impressive on her college applications. Her time with the patients, whether praying with them, listening or just sitting by their bedsides, quickly took on greater meaning.

 

“I had never spent a lot of time in hospitals or around people that were ill, so I felt very awkward and nervous at first in my interactions with the patients,” she said. “Now, my times with them have become some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had. I recently spent an afternoon with a 95-year-old woman who was dealing with a lot of pain. I couldn’t really communicate with her, but I sat with her for almost two hours. It was an indescribable experience. There’s nothing really radical I can do for the patients, but I can be there for them. That’s the best I can offer, and I think that’s important.

 

Bird has also volunteered in a summer program for children through Su Casa Hispanic Center of Cincinnati and teaches second graders in St. Bartholomew’s parish school of religion. As she prepares for college and a career, Bird says she feels drawn toward missionary work, youth ministry or campus ministry.

 

“I just really like having a spiritual aspect to everyday life,” she said in reflecting on the connection between her volunteer work and Catholic faith. “It’s important for me to be doing something that benefits others. I feel like my faith has really grown through the work I’ve done and the people I’ve met. I’ve seen God in them.”

 

Sister Eileen Connelly, OSU can be reached at: econnelly@catholiccincinnati.org.

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