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Volunteer Nation Blog

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“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” ~Winston Churchill


Help!

 

Album cover for The Beatles: Help!


 

Help!  I need somebody,

Help! Not just anybody,

Help, you know I need someone,

Help!...

Won’t you please, please help me, help me, help me, oh!


 

Hi, folks.  We need your help.

 

Sometimes we’re looking for someone with a specific skill set (ex. Classical Latin experience; fundraising background; technical development skills; etc.).  The easiest way for us to find these folks is through the entries in the Volunteer Portal. By keeping your personal information section up-to-date, you save us time and help us find you when we need you.

To update your information:

 

  1.  Go to the Volunteer Portal:  https://volunteers.learningally.org/


 




 

  1.  Click on Log Hours and log in:

 

 



 

  1.  Click on the My Profile Tab:

 



 

  1.  Scroll down and check off boxes that apply to you, and update any outdated information:

 


 

  1.  Continue scrolling and checking as applicable, click SAVE in each section:

 



 

  1.  Once you’ve checked and saved everything you’re interested in, scroll to the bottom and click Exit:

 



 

It’s as easy as pumpkin pie!  Thank you for keeping your information up-to-date.  Correct information improves our efficiency and helps us better serve the students we’re trying to help.


 

Pumpkin pie, complete with a dollop of whipped cream in the middle and with an edging of pie-dough autumn leaves


Volunteer Spotlight: Donald Sheetz

                                                    Donald Sheetz

What do you do at Learning Ally? 

I am a reader and a checker. But over the last 18 months, I have been checking more files than reading. I find that I make more mistakes reading than I want to, but I really enjoy listening to a number of excellent readers who make few if any mistakes.     

                               

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How long have you volunteered at Learning Ally? 

I started with RFB&D, Learning Ally's previous name, in the spring of 2009 after I retired from the maritime and oil industries. I began in the New Haven office, then transitioned to the New York office when the NH office closed. I also had occasion to record in the Upland and DC facilities when visiting my sons living near those facilities. And once Christine and Stacie even allowed me to record one (yes, that's right, one) file in the Athens office! After moving to Florida in 2014, I became part of the virtual community.

 

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What made you want to volunteer at Learning Ally?

Certainly, part of my decision was based on the fact that my dear aunt was almost totally blind, and I wanted to "pay it forward" for her. I also had been doing "voice work" of one kind or another since I was 16, and as I was looking to volunteer somewhere after retirement, it seemed to be a "fit."

 

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What's something most people at Learning Ally don't know about you?

In line with the previous question, I was asked by school mates to announce the music played by the school dance band, but it would be silly of me just doing the announcing. So...I pretended to play the bass during the musical numbers and then before the next musical number announce what we had just done or what was coming up. Duh! I couldn't play a lick! That's me -- the great pretender -- in the accompanying photo.

 

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What do you like most about volunteering at Learning Ally?

A number of things: firstly, the sense that we, the volunteers, are doing something that benefits others. Secondly, working with a tremendous staff, learning from them. Thirdly, "meeting" both physically -- at times -- and virtually, other volunteers and staff. I have been very lucky that way in that I have been able to work at or visit a number of Learning Ally's brick and mortar facilities, attended a Gala dinner in Denver, been to the Princeton office, and meet once a year or so with other volunteers from the Southern California community for lunch or breakfast or whatever. That group has grown from 3 of us to a group of a dozen or more, although with time constraints, travel distances, etc., the group that actually meets is about 6 or 7, but growing.

 

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Do you have any advice for prospective Learning Ally volunteers?

2 things: Learn the reading conventions and don't be afraid to ask questions or challenge decisions. What we do changes with the times as do the conventions. 

Actually, there is a third piece of advice: don't take things personally. Edit notes are not personal attacks. They are meant to improve the overall product that we are putting out. Okay, okay, okay! One last piece of advice: thank the staff for what they do! They do a great job! 

 

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What is your favorite audiobook/book if you have any?

Books, in general, not audiobooks: I love almost anything Michael Connelly writes but there are so many other authors that I like I could fill the page with them. And I much prefer to hold the book in my hands and physically turn the pages. No Kindle or mp3 player for me.

 

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What do you do during your free time?

Actually, I spend most of my time volunteering, whether it is with earning Ally or other reading services, tutoring at a local elementary school (2nd and 3rd graders mostly, learning to read), calling BINGO once a month, doing other non-profit voice work, etc. I am also the disembodied voice at two maritime conferences in Connecticut telling attendees where to go and what to do next and have for the last few years been the house announcer for the Orange County Children's Theater (California) reminding folks about photography, food, etc. I have also voiced several online courses for two maritime not-for-profit entities, In fact, I average about 150 hours a month of volunteer work -- when not traveling -- doing this type of "work." 

 

When not doing that, my wife and I like to travel. We are lucky to have been able to visit about 100 countries -- for work or pleasure --  between the two of us. I envy some of the places she has been and she would definitely not like several of the places I have been.

 

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What is your Favorite movie or TV series?

In the overall scheme of things, I don't watch "that much" TV but when I do, I binge watch programs like Chicago PD (my home town!), Law and Order SVU, or Bosch (I told you I like Michael Connelly, the writer).


This Weeks Highly Recommended Titles 10/23

This Weeks Highly Recommended Titles 10/23

We will be highlighting some of the books that our incredible Volunteer Nation has worked on! These are the selections for this week...and keep an eye out for next week's three-book selection for Halloween! This information is collected weekly by Christina Trejos, Digital Production Coordinator at Learning Ally.


Grade Band: K-3
Melia And Jo by Billy Aronson (NC084)
Narrated by: Nikola Zakocs
Book Trailer: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1pXy0RwFYS61u034fyTT-HZ0X23MWjGil
Synopsis: 
Melia and Jo will be to STEAM what Rosie Revere is to STEM. Melia is scientific and loves to create things in her backyard laboratory, but something is missing. Her inventions just aren't quite right. Enter Jo, her new friend with an artistic spirit. When you add the arts to sciences, something magical happens This whimsically illustrated picture book is the perfect introduction to the benefits of STEAM-focused curriculum.

 

Grade Band: 3-7   
The Ship is Dead: Magnus Chase and The God's of Asgard: Book 3 (NA576) 
Narrated by: Michael Fryar
Author: Rick Riordan
Book Trailer:  https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RqKlXvdVGyN855t0UuO6J6lDwW27UWRe
Book Link: https://learningally.org/BookDetails/BookID/NA576
Synopsis: 
Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin's chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn't naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus faces his most dangerous trial yet. His cousin, Annabeth, recruits her boyfriend, Percy Jackson, to give Magnus some pointers, but will his training be enough? Loki is free from his chains. He's readying Naglfar , the Ship of the Dead, complete with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Asgardian gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It's up to Magnus and his friends to stop him, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfar before it's ready to sail. Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon. Magnus's biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. Does he have what it takes to outwit the wily trickster god?

 

 

Grade Band: 8+   
La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Series: Book 1 (NA473) 
Narrated by: Paul Morgan
Book Trailer: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RqKlXvdVGyN855t0UuO6J6lDwW27UWRe
Synopsis: 

Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, are used to overhearing news and the occasional scandal at the inn run by his family. But during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm finds a mysterious object—and finds himself in grave danger. Inside the object is a cryptic message about something called Dust; and it’s not long before Malcolm is approached by the spy for whom this message was actually intended. When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he begins to notice suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl—just a baby—named Lyra.   Lyra is at the center of a storm, and Malcolm will brave any peril, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through it. 


Volunteer Nation Live

Volunteer Nation Live

 

Have you been a part of our Volunteer Nation Live! events? Each month we're exploring another aspect of Learning Ally, from volunteering and reading best practices, to the user experience. Last month Amy Leona was our guest, explaining and demonstrating the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution, our application for delivering audiobooks to our member borrowers. In addition, she showed us how teachers can use the software and websites to assign books to students and track their reading progress.

 

If you'd like to watch a recording of the presentation you can find it here.

 

Volunteer Nation Live September 18th 2019 The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution

 

Remember, these events are also an opportunity to have your questions answered, either live or in follow-up messages. Here are some questions answered from our last webinar.

 

David W. asked: Does text highlighting apply to our textbooks as well?

 

Answer: Our textbooks are typically Classic Audio, which means that they are human-narrated with no highlighted text on the screen. For a multi-sensory experience, we encourage our students to follow along in the traditional textbook, as they listen to the audiobook.

 

John A. asked: If synchronized text is the most valued feature, (of our audiobooks) why are we still doing so many "classic" format books.

 

Answer: We are in fact producing many more VOICEtext books with synchronized text these days, twice the number of Classic Audio books we produced this past year. Textbooks, however are much more complicated in terms of layout and non-text content. Creating a navigable version of the such books would be extremely time and resource intensive, delaying books for weeks or months. Besides, the majority of our borrowers are reading along with their physical textbooks at school or home.

 

Recording and Reading a Classic Audio Book

 

Here to provide more detail on the how and why of Classic Audio is Jeff, a 42 year veteran of Learning Ally volunteering. Watch his video here: Classic Audio demo

 

Classic Audio Reading and Listening

 

Office Hours

 

Learning Ally staff are online to answer your questions live on alternating Wednesdays at 2 PM EST. You'll find links, and more information on the training site.

 

Congratulations To Our Training Graduates for the month of September

 

Jim R., Suzanne M., James M., Daniel F., Susan K., Lisa T., Craig J., Bonnie H., Aishah J-E., Anna F., Blair K., Samantha H., Mark M., Jenny B., Brian W., Carmen C., Catherine M., Brianna W., Wendy S., Jamie P., Kim W., Hamilton C., Michele N., John B.


Why is Logging Hours important?

We get asked often, why logging hours is important. To help answer, here are some ways the data is used in managing our volunteer program. 

 

  • Volunteer Recognition! We appreciate everything you do. This data helps us recognize milestones and outstanding service!
  • Program Health. We can use this data to evaluate the health of our volunteer program. We can see the effort that goes into audiobook production and other Learning Ally initiatives that volunteers support. We can project how many new audiobooks we can produce during a year, measure volunteer retention, and build recruitment plans to grow and fill areas of need. 
  • Reporting. The value of your donated service is required in our financial reporting. We can also provide reports, when requested, to companies that give to nonprofits where their staff volunteers, and to foundations that are interested in our volunteer program.

 

Some cool numbers based on logged hours that you might find interesting. From July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, we had 604 volunteers donate a total of 57,143 hours to Learning Ally -- an average of almost 95 hours per volunteer! Many in more than one role…

 

  • 244 volunteers donated 12,373 hours Narrating new audiobooks in the Literature Community.
  • 94 volunteers donated 5,241 hours Listening and checking those new audiobooks for our Literature Community.
  • 61 volunteers donated 452 hours performing Quality Assurance testing on audiobooks completed in the Literature Community.
  • 216 volunteers donated 24,034 hours Reading new textbooks.
  • 201 volunteers donated 10,436 hours Checking those new textbooks for the Instructional Text Community.
  • 141 new volunteers donated another 1,738 hours of Checking as part of our Virtual Hands-on Center (VHOC).
  • 36 volunteers donated 2,248 hours performing Pre-production tasks for the Instructional Text Community. This included tasks like ToCTool, writing project guidelines, and PDF bookmarking for textbook production.
  • 17 volunteers donated 115 hours providing Career Development Support to graduating Blind or Visually Impaired students from our College Success Program.

 

Gathering volunteer service hours is not unique to Learning Ally. This is something that most volunteer programs do, especially those of our size. However, speaking for Learning Ally on the subject, without you logging hours, we would not be able to truly understand or recognize the work and effort that you all put into providing students with the tools they need to succeed. With that in mind, I will finish with text straight from our Recognition Page on our Volunteer Nation Community Portal:

 

You matter. You make a difference.

 

Your great generosity has had a profound and lasting impact on our students. Your willingness to share both your time and your talent says a lot about each of you as human beings. Your willingness to give selflessly to help others speaks to both your strength and the quality of your character.
 

When you volunteer, you are making a commitment to share that most precious of resources – your time – to make life better for those who are in need. The fruits of your labors make a tangible impact, of course, but perhaps it is the fact that you are willing to share your time and talent to lend a helping hand and to show kindness and caring that makes the greatest difference in the lives of the individuals who learn to love reading from listening to the audiobooks YOU help produce.
 

While we know that you choose to volunteer selflessly and without expectation of being recognized or rewarded, we want to take the time to let you know just how much your dedication is appreciated and to make sure you know that everyone at Learning Ally is forever grateful to each of you. Whether you are a long-time volunteer or if you got involved fairly recently, and regardless of how many hours you choose to give, it’s important for you to know that what you do makes a difference.
 

Words cannot adequately express the gratitude that we wish to express. Please know that your service is recognized, appreciated, valued and cherished. We thank you and look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.
 


Literature Books Completed in July, 2019

The Literature Community finished recording 80 books in July, 2019! Thank you all for all the hard work.


Volunteer Spotlight: Marsha Poppie

Marsha Poppie 

What do you do at Learning Ally? 

I mostly do recording of instructional text with occasional checking of other’s files.  In the 90’s, I was on the board of directors for the Orland Park studio. 

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How long have you volunteered at Learning Ally?

This is my 25th year of volunteering for Learning Ally (previously known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic).

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What made you want to volunteer at Learning Ally?

After all my children were out of the house and off to school, I had more free time on my hands and wanted to volunteer. I have always felt that blind people faced challenges in everyday life and learning and so I wanted to share my eyesight in a constructive helpful manner.

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What's something most people at LA don't know about you?

Perhaps, that I used to work as an extra in TV and film.

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What do you like most about volunteering at LA?

With the advent of our virtual studio, I like the flexibility it affords me in sitting to record at any time of the day I wish.  I also enjoy the gratification I receive in knowing that some student somewhere really needs the book I’m working on and will learn from it. Moreover, another thing I enjoy about recording for LA is that I am learning as well from every book I read.

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Do you have any advice for prospective LA volunteers?

Ease into the process and understand that you will not know everything at once.  Staff and other volunteers are very helpful and always there to lend advice. Even now, I still learn new things.

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What is your favorite audio book/ book if you have any?

When I was recording Inferno by Dan Brown, I became so engrossed in the story that I was going to the studio extra days to read it.  

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What do you do during your free time?

During my free time I most enjoy singing in a choir, making quilts, going to movies, reading, traveling and spending time with my family of six children, their spouses, and eleven grandchildren.  

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What is your Favorite movie or TV series?

I like all the PBS shows, Downton Abbey, Grantchester, Call the Midwife, Doc Martin etc.  The intrigue of Raymond Reddington on Blacklist captivates me.  

 


Volunteer Spotlight: Shelley Cincotta

                                                                                               Shelley Cincotta

What do you do at Learning Ally? 

As part of the Literature community, I am happy to be narrating children’s books and I am learning a lot from the other volunteers in the virtual literary salon.

As a checker in the Textbook community, I have listened to many well-spoken narrators!  This summer, I joined the textbook pre-production pilot where I am writing project guidelines for textbooks, mostly English textbooks.  I have also helped to update the project guideline template to make it easier to use.

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How long have you volunteered at Learning Ally? 

I started volunteering at Learning Ally in Fall 2018.

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What made you want to volunteer at Learning Ally?

My son is dyslexic and, for the past five years, he has used the LA app to read higher level books.  He listens to LA books almost every day. I wanted to contribute to this great cause to help children with learning differences love reading. I enjoy reading to my son and wanted to “read” to other children by narrating books.

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What's something most people at LA don't know about you?

I enjoy hiking and have hiked in ten National Parks so far. My goal is to hike in all National Parks in the US. Also, I would love to work for LA as part of the staff.

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What do you like most about volunteering at LA?

Because it is a virtual working environment, I can work on my own time and at my own pace. I like interacting with the staff and other volunteers on hangouts. Everyone is extremely nice!!

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Do you have any advice for prospective LA volunteers?

You can find a niche for yourself in any of the writing, editing, narrating opportunities.

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What is your favorite audiobook/ book if you have any?

I enjoy listening, with my son, to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.

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What do you do during your free time?

I like to spend as much time as I can with my family at the ocean, swimming, kayaking, walking, and eating ice cream.

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What is your Favorite movie or TV series?

Lately, I have been watching the Jack Ryan series on Amazon.