'Spotlight on Seniors' cable TV show strives to serve community's needs

October 19, 1994|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Contributing Writer

Nancy Koepsell is used to people saying, "I saw you on TV."

During the past 11 years, as host of the cable program, "Spotlight on Seniors" -- which airs Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Cable Channel 6 -- the Columbia resident has gotten her share of recognition.

"Most of all, I want to know how they liked the show, not whether or not I am seen on television," said Mrs. Koepsell, who refers to herself as "a senior" when asked about her age.

After spending about 100 hours per show brainstorming, writing, editing and shooting for each of three programs they produce a year, Mrs. Koepsell and her small team of volunteers are asking for viewers' suggestions for future programs.

"We try to have different topics that are of interest to the community," said Mrs. Koepsell. "Although the program is called 'Spotlight on Seniors,' that doesn't mean it is only for older people."

Since the show's beginning 13 years ago, programs have included a variety of subjects -- everything from building birdhouses to the Winter Growth Adult Day Care Center in Columbia.

Ideas often come during monthly meetings of S.O.S. at the Florence Bain Senior Center. It's a team effort for the four stalwart volunteers who produce the shows.

Jack Foley, public access coordinator from the county cable television administrator's office, gives hands-on help and advice. The office provides a $400 to $500 annual grant to cover the show's expenses.

Operating the cameras are Mavis Davis, a 69-year-old Baltimore county resident and six-year S.O.S. member, and Ellie Jordan, "a senior" from Ellicott City. Neither woman has a background in television, but they continue to learn with each program.

Marty Chaitovitz, a 65-year-old Columbia resident who has been part of S.O.S. since 1986, writes scripts, directs, does camera work and coordinates projects. The retired training officer with the Social Security Administration says he had done some work "in front of the camera" during his career and "had an interest in learning more" when he volunteered to work with S.O.S.

Mrs. Koepsell, who has experience in broadcasting, is the driving force behind the group. She writes and edits the programs and does whatever else is needed behind the scenes.

Thirty-three years ago, she was host of a homemaker show for a radio station in Niagara Falls. Later, she transferred to a radio station in Buffalo and was co-host of a talk show. She also wrote TV scripts and appeared in TV commercials.

All four volunteers have taken technical training classes provided by Comcast Cable and the company provides the studio, camera, microphones and other equipment.

"What we need most is more technical help," said Mrs. Koepsell. "We are especially interested in someone with a background in the TV industry. It would make everything we do so much easier."

Aside from the mutual enjoyment of producing a show, all four S.O.S. members share a common goal: "We want to get needed information out to the public," Mr. Chaitovitz said.

One such program that the group believes was vital was a segment about the activities and services offered at Florence Bain Senior Center.

"The Office on Aging of Howard County offers an unbelievable array of services that run the gamut from information about insurance and taxes to things to do with your leisure time," said Mrs. Koepsell. "We want the children of seniors to know what is available. Many times they are concerned about their parents who are sitting home."

Fresh in the group members' minds is their most recent program about devices that can help stroke victims remain independent. The work on the program began in June and is scheduled to air in mid-November.

"There's a great deal of human interest in the program," said Mrs. Koepsell. "We spent three months with three individuals, each of whom is recuperating from a stroke. No matter how difficult it was, putting it together was such a joy. That's where each of us shared something very personal."

Anyone interested in volunteering should call 730-2532 for information.

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