Updated: Jul 7, 2021
In my youth I watched a lot of PBS including Reading Rainbow, Nature and Nova. I would see their occasional calls for support through membership drives but as a kid I had no funds to help. Every year my local affiliate, KCPT would host a week long fundraising auction to raise money to keep them on the air. They would offer up items donated by Kansas City residents from all over the metro like gift cards, toys, books, cars, artwork, exclusive tours of the stadiums, etc. Basically if it was public TV appropriate and had value you could see it. Remember this was before the internet age so there was no Amazon and no eBay making this a very exciting and original concept.
The auctions must have been successful because they continued to do them every year. In my early 20s I was told by a friend that it was primarily the work of volunteers and they are always looking for help. This is before I got my job at KCTV5 so the idea of working on or around a TV set appealed to me. I reached out to them and signed up to pickup donations for the month(s) prior and as an on air staging coordinator during the event. Through this I drove all over the city collecting items large and small in my Chevy Venture Minivan dropping at the station in midtown.
The first day of the auction I went through the volunteer entrance on 31st street and was given a quick tutorial. There would be crews carrying items up from the basement or through the elevators and along with my assigned partner we would be asked to stage them on the wheeled carts so that they were aesthetically presentable and labeled correctly. Then we would wheel them out on the stage into a spot marked off on the floor with tape. There were four such spots and the guest host "celerity" would be talking about one while we were setting up the next ones. When they finished and the camera moved to the next one in the line we would swing in and take the completed cart back back to be stored until the winners can come pick them up. And so it went in counterclockwise fashion for hours like a well oiled machine.
On our breaks we would go out the doors to the East and you could enjoy donated food while looking directly up through the center of the 1,000'+ TV tower that they broadcast from (which originally used to be KCTV5s my future employer). I met a lot of interesting people and felt I was helping keep educational and enriching programs on the air. I made the decision to keep volunteering the next year and did so until they apparently got a grant and it didn't make fiscal sense to keep operating it. I had a lot of unique experiences through that volunteer work that has proved beneficial in my life and I look back on it fondly.