Making a Difference: Informed and Entertained
For 30 years, Nancy Thames ran the AmeriCorps program at Eastern Kentucky University, helping Kentucky communities with local public service projects.
She worked with dozens of school districts each year, bringing in college tutors to help those struggling with their literacy skills or grappling with a drug addiction.
“You learn so much about people you wouldn’t otherwise know about, it really does broaden your horizons.”Nancy Thames
The experience, she says, taught her a lot about Kentucky — and likewise about the role that education plays in helping people change their lives for the better.
And it was working in those communities, she says, where she recognized that KET was something more than just a public television network.
“Education has always been very important in my life,” Thames said. “And getting to see the big picture of how KET works closely with schools and teachers, going into communities and helping people improve their lives, that’s something that really resonated with me.”
The kinship she shared for KET, she said, ultimately prompted her in the late 1990s to join the Friends of KET board, a network of community volunteers who help with KET’s local outreach and fundraising efforts.
After more than 20 years on the board (and serving in every major leadership position, from secretary to president), Thames says she feels honored to represent KET in her community.
“It will sound hokey, but I love being on the Friends Board and learning about the different educational programs that KET produces,” Thames said. “And my husband and I have been watching KET forever — it’s long been one of our favorite stations.”
The couple, both Alabama natives, moved to Richmond in the mid-1970s and soon found themselves tuning to KET to catch their favorite Masterpiece Theatre programs, such as Upstairs, Downstairs, Jeeves and Wooster and even the original Poldark. Like much of America, they too got swept up in Downton Abbey mania. And they love settling in for a Ken Burns documentary.
“That’s one of the reasons KET is so well-liked: there’s such a wide variety of programs,” Thames said. “It’s always educational and informative. You learn so much about people you wouldn’t otherwise know about, it really does broaden your horizons.”
During the pandemic, KET has played an important role, she said, whether producing educational resources to aid virtual learning efforts, keeping people informed with its health-related programs, or providing a steady feed of enriching entertainment for those passing the days at home.
“I’d dare say KET has been a great blessing, particularly to our senior citizens who couldn’t get out,” Thames said. “I know in our household, we’ve spent a lot of the past year at home, and KET has been out connection to the world.”
Although she’s retired these days and doesn’t travel nearly as much as she used to, Thames said she still enjoys talking with people about their affection for KET.
“It’s this great unifying gift to Kentucky,” she said.