NCRA member gives back and gets back

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Left to right: Tunch Ilkin, J. Dax Parise (holding award), and Craig Wolfley

Earlier this month, NCRA member J. Dax Parise, CLVS, was honored with the Locker Room Leadership Award from Light of Life Rescue Mission, a nonprofit homeless shelter based in Pittsburgh, Pa. Parise was recognized for his commitment to providing promotional video services at events and activities benefiting individuals and families experiencing housing crises. He was presented the award by former NFL Pittsburgh Steelers players Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley. Parise is the president of Veritas Legal Services in Pittsburgh, which has been in existence for 15 years and offers a wide range of court reporting, legal videography and videoconferencing services.

The JCR Weekly reached out to him to learn more about his volunteer work, what motivates him, and why he does what he does.

How did you become involved in Light of Life Rescue Mission?

A close friend approached me with a problem: Light of Life Rescue Mission had served as a beacon of hope for the homeless, the hungry, and those struggling with addictions since 1952, but no one was aware of the great work of this Pittsburgh-based nonprofit. I toured the mission’s facilities, and learned more about its programs and its people. I knew I had to find a way to help spread the stories of both the successes and challenges that those involved with Light of Life experience on a daily basis. Video work is my wheelhouse; it was a logical choice for me. I could visually share these inspirational stories.

How long have you been working with the group?

We’ve been volunteering for Light of Life since 2009.

What types of promo videos do you supply them with?

To raise awareness about a cause, you often need to demonstrate the problem. However, that doesn’t mean awareness videos need to be sad to make a point. Our videos tend to introduce viewers to the problem and then ask them to be a part of the solution. We share stories of those who have completed recovery programs. We also highlight ways to give back and personal tales of volunteers and community members. These videos bridge an emotional gap and highlight the life-changing effects of Light of Life in both an informative and inspirational way.

What is the most rewarding return for you from volunteering?

Light of Life is based in Pittsburgh, where I live and work. My work with them gives me the chance to make a direct impact on my community, to be a part of something bigger than myself, and to use my particular skills for a greater good.  

Did you know you were going to receive the Leadership Award?

My role is typically much more behind-the-scenes, so I was surprised to find out Light of Life planned to honor me! They reached out about a month ago and presented me with the award on May 12 as a part of an awareness event to promote their Memorial Day weekend walk to end homelessness.

What does it mean to have received the award?

While I certainly do not do what I do for recognition, being recognized by such an inspirational organization truly was an extraordinary moment. I was touched and so pleased I can use my passion to celebrate Light of Life’s work.

What would you tell others about why volunteering is important?

Volunteering for Light of Life has allowed me the opportunity to meet and work with phenomenal people, from diverse backgrounds, striving toward a common goal. These projects have helped me to better understand the community where I live and given me perspective on how the world really is. I’ve learned to employ gratitude in my daily life, and my volunteering shows my two sons just how critical it is that we help those less fortunate than us. For young people, volunteering is an excellent way to network, learn how to be a leader as well as a part of a team, and to build a resume.

Do you volunteer for other organizations?

Yes, we donate to other organizations regularly, but Light of Life has become so much more than a charity to Veritas Legal Services. They have become a part of our family.

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How one NCRA member rocked a radio interview

JCRiconBy Donna Cascio, RDR, CMRS

Currently my husband and I live in a rural setting about 70 miles away from downtown Pittsburgh, but I lived in the city as a reporting student and have always felt a part of that scene. One of the morning rituals in our home is waking up at 6 a.m. to the Morning Show with Randy Baumann on WDVE (known locally as DVE), a rock radio station.

On Sundays we still get up early because we attend a 7:30 a.m. church service, so we let the radio come on as per usual. DVE airs different programming on Sundays, and one show is called Pittsburgh Sunday Morning, with Sean McDowell. It airs at 7a.m. and is a public affairs program, often highlighting local charity events, such as runs or walks benefiting various organizations. Sean invites listeners to contact him if there is an upcoming event to highlight, and he emphasizes that the topic does not need to be related to a charity.

Because the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association and NCRA did such a good job urging all of us in the court reporting world to highlight our professions to the community preceding National Court Reporting & Captioning Week in February, I immediately thought, why not?

I emailed Sean on Feb. 2, and he responded two days later. The rest, as they say, is history. Mary Beth Johnson, CRI, professor of court reporting at Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Amy Bowlen, RDR, CRR, CRC, Imperial, Pa., former head of captioner training at VITAC, were totally on board when I asked them to participate, and we snapped up the opportunity Sean gave us – the date of May 18, at noon, to record the interview. Although that was past Court Reporting & Captioning Week, we were thrilled to be able to talk about the profession we love.

As a prelude to this interview, I gathered material that NCRA had available on its website regarding our profession, asked a few questions, and even reached out to NCRA Past President Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRR, Worcester, Mass., about the connection between reporting and music. I also had pertinent information from a recent interview I had done with a local newspaper.

I sifted through all of it and sent Sean some interesting facts and figures. He really did the rest! He was so thorough in covering the topics, and we reporters added comments throughout. Sean did a marvelous job hitting high points and seemed truly fascinated by what we do.

Because the folks at this radio station are “celebrities” to us, we had a great time meeting some of them after the interview and touring the studios. All in all, it was a great experience.

Read the transcript of the radio show.

I write the Stanley Cup every day

Photo by Connie Lee

Photo by Connie Lee

By Connie Lee

I love hockey. I especially love the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are my team. I have been providing in-stadium captioning for the Pittsburgh Penguins for five seasons now. Lucky me!

I had the distinct pleasure of writing game five of the 2016 Stanley Cup final. The Penguins were winning the series 3-1, and game five was going to be the night that Pittsburgh won a championship at home for the first time in 60 years. I was completely giddy to get to the arena from the time game four was in the books. I woke and dressed in my most professional version of black and gold that day. I had a short deposition in the morning before heading to the Consol Energy Center arena, strategically parking near the exit that would lead to the quickest way home. After all, 60,000 people, both inside and outside, were expected that night.

As I passed through the security gate and waved hello to my colleagues, just as I have done for the last five seasons, it dawned on me how very ordinary it was that day. The same aroma of pizza and hot sausage filled the air. A billion more TV people and trucks blocked my path, but everyone was calm.

When I arrived at media level, I expected pandemonium, people running from emergency to emergency. I expected high levels of anxiety. I got none of it. Until, that is, it was time for rehearsal. Routinely, everyone involved in game-night production meets in the director’s room, which is the size of about three large conference rooms. It’s about 30 people. When the game director, Billy Wareham, started to speak, I knew it was time to get serious. Billy is pretty jovial and cracks a lot of jokes. But when he started the meeting with, “I need to give you all some instructions,” I gulped.

What was so amazing to me was that Billy started his instructions by saying, “The people that are here in this room are here because I trust you. You are the best of the best.” That’s what made me realize, I write the Stanley Cup every day. Like the hockey players, I practice and hone my craft. I invest a minimum of 40 hours a week to my career. I don’t waste my time doing it half-way. Everything counts: every stroke, every interaction with my clients, every conversation with my support staff, every time I speak with the subcontractors – everything counts every day.

I get tired, sure, and sometimes I think of walking away, but what I do is important to more than just me. My team is counting on me: my family, my office manager, my scopists, my proofreader. More than anyone, the people who hire me and trust me with their work are counting on me.

When I write for the lawyers, I may not be the superstar on the ice, but I most equate myself with the equipment manager, making sure their skates are sharp, so that the litigators can go out and win. When I write for the Penguins, an entire fan base of people is counting on me to be their ears and to give them the full game-night experience. I pride myself on being the one both groups can rely on to do my absolute best every day.

My sweet Penguins did not win game five. It broke all of our hearts. The responses to the interviews after the game were not of the team giving up. They were of each player filled with resolve to get the job done, to come back next game and win the Stanley Cup in game 6. I’ll be there with them. Let’s go, Pens!

Connie Lee, RPR, is a freelance reporter in Baden, Pa.