By Karen Vance
Ruth and Richard Jameson love to read together. Right now, they're working on All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren.
"When we find an author we like, we get everything we can by that author," Ruth Jameson, 70, said.
A birth defect in her eyes makes it difficult to read, so she relies on a Talking Book machine.
"I learned to read when I was 3 or 4, and I read constantly," she said. "When I couldn't do that anymore, I was starved for information."
Now it's an activity she and her husband can share during dinner and on car trips.
A group of dedicated volunteers at General Electric maintains her Talking Book machine and the machines of thousands of people like her.
The cooperative effort between the volunteers, senior members of GE's Elfun Society and the Cincinnati Association for the Blind is being recognized as a finalist for the Mutual of America Community Partnership Award. They'll be honored at a luncheon next Tuesday.
"We've gotten a lot of recognition - from government agencies and our company - but when it's industry recognizing us, that's pretty exciting," said Bernie Burdick, the co-leader of the repair project.
Burdick, 77, of Anderson Township, retired from GE in 1986 and has been working on the Talking Book Repair Project since 1990.
The almost 100 volunteers - retired engineers, accountants and managers - work in four-hour shifts every Wednesday and Thursday to repair the special tape players. The machines play specially recorded four-sided cassette tapes made at slow speed.
There are about 800,000 of the machines in the world. The Elfun Society has repaired more than 35,000 units. Similar projects have been started throughout Ohio and copied in Michigan, Rhode Island, California, Utah, Kentucky, Washington and the Virgin Islands.
Burdick, who tested engines for GE, said repairing the machines is not as difficult as his previous job, but it's equally rewarding. He especially empathizes with seniors, like himself, who now have difficulty reading.
"It's really rewarding when we hear about how it's made a difference in someone's life," he said.
Xavier University will host its 27th Antonio Johnson Scholarship Gala at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The black tie event at the Cintas Center will feature Dr. Lonise Bias, mother of the late Len Bias.
Dr. Bias tours the country addressing issues of drugs, alcohol and family following the death of her son, a star basketball player at the University of Maryland who died of drug-related causes in 1986, two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics.
At the gala, named for a Xavier student who organized Black Awareness Month in 1972, the university will award an African-American junior who has demonstrated academic excellence, leadership and service with a $3,000 scholarship.
Tickets are $30 per person, $15 for children under 12 and $10 for students. For more information, call 745-3181.
Allen Howard is on vacation. Karen Vance will write "Some Good News" until he returns April 8. If you have a "good news" story e-mail Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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