By Keith McShea, News Staff Reporter, The Buffalo News,
Michael Benzin has been elevated to executive director of the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, an agency that serves listeners who are blind, visually impaired, or have other print disabilities by reading printed newspapers, magazines, books and other materials over a special broadcast frequency.
Benzin, a career nonprofit professional with more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, marketing communications and program operations to the agency, follows Robert Sikorski in the role. Sikorski stepped down in November after leading the Radio Reading Service since founding it in 1987.
“I am delighted to be working in 'the house that Bob built',” Benzin said in a release, referencing the Radio Reading Service’s founder. “The foundation he laid will allow us to grow this legacy while creating new pathways and experiences for current and future listeners.
"We estimate that there are more than 22,000 people in the Buffalo Niagara region who are blind or visually impaired. Multiply that by four to include people with dyslexia and other reading challenges and it’s easy to see how important these services are for listener engagement and participation in our community.”
Benzin is an East Aurora resident and a graduate of Canisius College.
The Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service transmits on a special sub-carrier frequency provided by program partner WNED 94.5 FM that can only be heard with the help of a special receiver. Plans call for extending the broadcast’s reach with password-protected streaming and podcasts through smartphones, smart speakers, computer browsers and other connected devices.
In December 2018, while remaining a separate 501(c)(3) organization, the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service began a new affiliation with Western New York Independent Living, a group of four regional Independent Living Centers with two more satellite locations, serving Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming Counties.
“The relationship brings support for bookkeeping, payroll, IT, maintenance and other services to the Radio Reading Service, allowing the agency to dedicate more attention to strengthening their core mission, improving listener outreach and the program experience, fundraising and volunteer recruitment.” said Douglas Usiak, CEO of WNYIL.