Photo credit: Jonathan Logan
BERRIEN SPRINGS — Seven decades have passed since a group of area residents got together to spread Biblical and good character stories to children and youth, both locally and around the world. They created an interdenominational ministry called “Your Story Hour,” which is still headquartered in Berrien Springs.
On Wednesday staff, volunteers and supporters gathered at the ministry’s West Ferry Street offices to celebrate Your Story Hour’s 70th anniversary. “Your Story Hour” stories are aired on more than 1,000 radio stations worldwide and are also available on the ministry’s website.
“We are the longest continuously operating children’s ministry in the nation,” said “Your Story Hour” treasurer Suzanne Renton. “We began airing live on WHFB in 1949 and are now on stations around the world in three languages, English, Russian and Spanish.”
The current “Your Story Hour” hosts are “Aunt Nikki” Nicole Buckhanan and “Uncle Jon” Jon Clayburn, who auditioned and won their roles last year. They succeed original hosts Stanley Hill and Betty Ahnberg, who played Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue, as well as succeeding hosts Carole Pezet and Chet Damron, who played Aunt Carole and Uncle Dan.
Buckhanen is a nurse and lives in Berrien Springs. She is the daughter of Pezet, who started as a host in 1988 and still narrates stories. Clayburn is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor from western Pennsylvania and the brother-in-law of “Your Story Hour” President Julie Clayburn.
Both Buckhanen and Clayburn were on hand for Wednesday’s open house. Each grew up listening to the “Your Story Hour” stories and are excited about hosting the shows. They come into the studio once or twice a year to record while the actors who play the different characters come in every couple of years.
“I was at my sister-in-law’s house last year picking up some items and I asked as a joke whether they needed another host, and she said they were actually auditioning people,” Clayburn said.
In addition to meeting the two hosts, those attending the open house got a behind the scenes peek at how the stories are recorded. Staff members showed people the different items they use for sound effects and how they mix various sounds together to create the audio for different scenes.
The ministry has seen changes and growth over the years, including those brought about with new technologies. Julie Clayburn said the biggest change has been in how the stories are disseminated. Stories are now recorded and available on compact discs or through downloads from the website, as well as on internet platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.
The stories themselves are also a little different. “We not only do Biblical stories but also ones involving history and character building,” she said. “We’ve had stories of people from World War II and the Civil Rights era as well as current themes. People send in personal stories as well as ones about true life events.”
In this area, people can hear the weekly stories on WAUS, as well as online (www.yourstoryhour.org). Their audience includes people of all ages and backgrounds, including many in the homeschool community.
First published in the Herald-Palladium, 3/28/19, and reprinted with permission of Debra Haight, HP correspondent.