A good mystery and an attentive audience are the perfect blend for one Audio-Reader volunteer.
Darcy Schild can close her eyes and remember listening to her parents read a children's book to her each night as she grew up in Lawrence. She has been hooked on reading ever since.
Schild has shared her passion for books and reading the last 17 years as a devoted volunteer with Audio-Reader, a closed circuit radio station that broadcasts to more than 6,000 blind, elderly and disabled people across Kansas and western Missouri. Schild spends five to 10 hours a week at the station, reading the New York Times Book Review section, mysteries and other fiction books. She also substitutes on live newspaper broadcasts.
In addition, Schild keeps busy during the weekends assisting Volunteer Coordinator Diana Frederick with a multitude of clerical tasks, such as checking and erasing tapes, filing and recording. Schild estimates that she has read more than 200 books for Audio-Reader, and been a substitute for almost every broadcast the station offers.
"Over the years, I've recorded just about everything that they have on the air at Audio-Reader," she said.
It's no wonder that Darcy won the Volunteer of the Year award at the Roger Hill Celebration of Volunteerism this April.
With a lifelong love of reading and the theater, Schild thrives during recording time at Audio-Reader.
"I love books and I love sharing books with people," she said. "I like reading to people. It's kind of a creative expression for me that I enjoy doing. I've gotten to know some of the listeners and it's really nice to know that, in addition to getting to do something I like, it's also something that's helpful and enjoyable for some other people."
Schild is one of eight skilled audio describers who provide narratives of some performances at the Lied Center and area theaters. Using special transmitting equipment, Schild describes what is happening on stage for theater patrons who wear a small headset. She loves the rush of describing live without a script.
"Theater description is something that's new and totally different type of challenge," Schild said. "But it's been a lot of fun doing that, too. It's exhilarating. It's like doing a performance of almost any kind. Some people have sort of looked at this like sports commentary, where you're sitting there watching something going on and trying to describe what's happening."
She said the audio describers try not to talk while the performers are speaking or singing because "we don't want to cover their lines. It's challenging to figure out what you want to say and say it really fast and then be quiet." Describing to the visually impaired has helped Schild develop a greater "awareness of other people's perceptions of the world."
After taking theater classes for a couple of years at Kansas University, Schild switched her major from theater to education. She eventually received a master's degree in library science from the University of Michigan. Schild has been the library/media specialist at Schwegler School since 1981.
Born and raised in Lawrence, Schild couldn't be happier living in her native city.
"I think Lawrence is a special community," she said, "I think that probably the community as a whole was sort of an influence that was important in shaping who I am."
Schild can't say enough positive things about the staff and volunteers at Audio-Reader.
"I really have enjoyed working with the staff up there," Schild said. "I think that I've developed some definite friendships and relationships through my experiences -- both with other volunteers and staff members. Seventeen years is quite a while. It's just kind of part of my life now."
Frederick feels lucky to have such a special volunteer helping at the reading service. She gushes when praising Schild's achievements.
"If we had a whole group of Darcys, our volunteer worries would be over," Frederick said. "The depth of her contributions to Audio-Reader is immeasurable. Lawrence is truly blessed to have the benefit of Darcy's unending time and talent."
Schild keeps an active schedule away from work and Audio-Reader. She has volunteered with performances at the Lawrence Community Theatre and Topeka Civic Theatre. Schild has also served on the board of directors of the River City Lions Club. She loves weaving and spending time with her two cats and two dogs.
On several occasions, Schild has held down the fort at Audio-Reader while staff were out of town attending conventions, assisting other volunteers and answering phones. Schild, though, lives for reading a good mystery and hearing the words come alive for the listener.
-- The Volunteer Profile is a service of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center.