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ELCAT seeking a variety of volunteers

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW Don Maki has a goal. As the acting director of East Longmeadow Cable Access Television (ELCAT), he wants to turn the town's public access channel into a forum -- into something people want to watch.

"My goal is to have Channel 5 be more than just Board of Selectmen meetings, Planning Board meetings and the community calendar," Maki said. "It could have anything."

ELCAT is looking for volunteers to perform in a variety of different ways. Production assistants are needed to help Maki cover municipal meetings and events, other volunteers are needed to record non-governmental events and residents are needed to create unique content for the channel.

Does the idea of operating video equipment seem daunting? Maki said the skill is easy to learn, and part of his job as ELCAT director is to train volunteers and review the channel's policies, all free of charge to the student. He will soon be starting a five-week training course, with an informational session taking place Oct. 10 from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Pleasantview Senior Center on North Main Street. Training sessions take place at the ELCAT studio inside the high school.

Volunteers who wish to work as production assistants operate cameras, format and update the community calendar, do filing and archiving and other office duties. These volunteers are also given $50 stipends for covering governmental meetings.

"The Board of Selectmen said they want as many meetings as possible televised, but I'm working with a skeleton crew," Maki said.

He is also looking to train individuals from organizations throughout town so their meetings and events can be televised. He is aiming to gather a pool of volunteers from the Senior Center, the schools and all the various civic groups throughout town.

"I'm encouraging people to come and train and produce content to put on the air," Maki told Reminder Publications. He said people who want to focus on one particular thing in town -- the geese at Heritage Pond, for example -- could put together a segment on that, or share their opinions on politics, or demonstrate a talent. The options, Maki said, are endless.

"As long as it's not obscene and it falls within FCC [Federal Communications Commission] guidelines, we'll show it," he said. "This could be the television version of blogging."

Maki said ELCAT has a lot of airtime to fill and he wants to fill it with homegrown content.

"Public access TV belongs to you," Maki explained. "It's free and you can do with it what you want."

ELCAT training is available to any interested East Longmeadow resident, including high schoolers. Those who wish to learn more should contact Maki at the ELCAT studio by calling 525-4220 or e-mailing