Thirty years ago, Derek’s mother Margaret began the Baronowski family’s enduring partnership with WCTE when she volunteered to be a part of the first Great TV Auction. Margaret thought it would be a great idea if her family volunteered as well.
“We weren’t that excited,” Derek recalled. “But as we got to know the people at the station and to be involved in the Auction, it became an awful lot of fun. And it really has become a family tradition that we’ve carried on through three generations.”
“We see so many friends there every year. Our kids became part of it as well. They enjoy it and when they are in town, they still like to be a part of it.”
Diana had moved to Tennessee about 6 months before the start of the Great TV Auction. Being Derek’s wife, she was also enlisted to help but she saw the Auction as a great way to meet people, to be a volunteer in the community.
“We’ve been so truly blessed in our life, “ said Diana.” We like to share that blessing with other people. And (the Auction) was a way to teach our children to be involved, to teach them that there is more in the world than themselves.”
“It is interesting to watch how the station has developed over the years,” commented Derek. “It started out with just a small group of dedicated, underpaid, overworked people dealing with local issues. Now, it impacts the entire region and is seen throughout the world.”
A few years ago, WCTE, partnered with Todd Jarrell to help produce his documentary, Tree Safari. Derek and Diana helped underwrite the film and were listed in the credits.
“We were in Europe when someone came up and asked us if we were the Diana and Derek Baronowski that did Tree Safari,” said Diana. “It was fun to know that what we helped do locally had an international impact.”
“WCTE is more than you see on the TV screen,” continued Diana. “There’s the outreach program, the Headstart program – the station is a force... With all of the cuts, people have to step up – we want to see WCTE be successful and continue the legacy. I would like to see the station have a new building and expand their services, their education.“
“The station needs a more visible space in the community,” agreed Derek. “It has grown beyond its roots. When that happens, more people will be able to share it. It is time to move on to the next level.”
At the first WCTE Great TV Auction 30 years ago, Margaret Baronowski bought a canoe.
“My Dad thought she was crazy.” Derek smiled. “She brought it home and put it in the living room for 3 months just to drive him nuts. That canoe has been passed down to us, to our kids, and now our nephew is using it. That same canoe that was part of the first TV Auction is still going strong.”
“I think that is like the history of the station. It keeps going from generation to generation.”
The station has come a long ways from the days Derek’s mom would make soup in a crockpot and bring it down to help feed the TV Auction volunteers.
“I think she would be amazed and very pleased to see what is happening.”
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