For over 20 years, WPSU’s Our Town series has captured the spirit of local communities from the perspective of the residents by providing an opportunity for the community to share the unique features of their town – profiling organizations, arts, schools, attractions, local folklore, history, etc. WPSU works with the community to recruit volunteers, teach them about the project, help them select stories, and teach them how to best tell their stories they’ve selected. (The community volunteers not only tell the stories, but they also collect the video and photos to support the stories.) Each “video scrapbook” then airs during a special heavily promoted evening slot on air, that is also used as a pledge program with the community volunteers manning the phones and helping in the celebration. We now also stream LIVE the “Our Town” programs in order to allow former residents, out of town family members of the volunteers and anyone else connected to that community or people featured, to see and hear the program and to pledge their support of this program. DVD copies are given as pledge gifts in support of memberships.
Approximately 25 volunteers are on camera telling stories in the final program in each community. We currently produce 4 “Our Towns” a year. Beyond that we encourage many more from the community to be involved in collecting photos and video that we can feature in the program. WPSU provides cameras for everyone, no restrictions on age or experience, just enthusiasm. The cameras are often placed in the local library further strengthening the community engagement and relationship building with WPSU as the conduit.
WPSU has the unique challenge of serving a predominantly rural and vast coverage area made up of many small towns and communities of many different ethnicities and socio-economic levels. Nothing else we do locally, and as a part of our larger Penn State university outreach reaches out into this wide geographical landscape of 29 counties in Central and North Central PA, engages more people to “tell their own story”and the stories of their hometowns and delivers the return on investment that the “Our Town” program has done.