23 years of spotlighting Naperville’s nonprofits

NCTV17's Spotlight TV show welcomes local nonprofits to tell their story on TV.
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September 2023 will mark the start of 23 years of spotlighting Naperville’s nonprofits through its TV talk show: Spotlight.

Launched in September 2001 as a monthly hour-long show featuring four local organizations, Spotlight was initially broadcast live. The show’s original host was Kandiss Hernandez, currently Executive Director of Fair Lady Productions, who shared one of her recollections from one of the early shows.

“When I was asked to host Spotlight, I was honored and a little nervous as I had never hosted a program on television. One that stands out to me was the interview I did about the Dan Shanower Memorial from 9/11.” Hernandez continued, “Because I didn’t know who I was interviewing, I was taken aback on air when I was introduced to Dan’s brother. It was an emotional interview and maybe one I should have been more prepared to develop. But my interview was real and honest. I am proud that I hosted and met many fabulous people doing great work.”

The Spotlight format has evolved over the years, and more than 1,500 individual interviews have been produced. The show currently features interviews with three nonprofit organizations in each half-hour program. NCTV17 produces 24 programs annually featuring 72 area nonprofit interviews each year. Now, instead of live broadcasts, the show is live-to-tape, and in addition to multiple rotations in the station’s on-air schedule, each interview is available online, on-demand on the station’s website.

To maximize the exposure for their work, each organization has access to their interviews for use in promoting their efforts. NCTV17 also promotes the taped segments through their own social media outlets. This aspect of the value of a Spotlight interview was touched on by Nancy Wiersum, Executive Vice President-Advancement at Loaves and Fishes Community Services, who also served as the host of Spotlight from 2006 through 2014.

Wiersum said, “Having been privileged to serve as both host and guest over the years, I have been amazed at the longevity of the segments viewed through social media, e-news, and websites. People comment to me about shows taped years ago. The long-term impact is significant, and we are fortunate to have such a beneficial opportunity right here in our own community.”

She added, “NCTV17’s show Spotlight is an incredible resource for our community. Loaves & Fishes Community Services has been honored to appear numerous times. The show is a valuable platform for us to share our story to engage others in our vital mission. As Loaves & Fishes has grown, Spotlight has been right alongside us as a trusted partner.”

Spotlight has been sponsored by Busey Bank since 2014, underscoring the fact that Naperville Community Television is itself a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that depends on sponsorships, grants, and donations to bring the stories of the Naperville community to its audience.

“Over the years, together with our presenting sponsor, Busey Bank, Spotlight has featured hundreds of local nonprofit organizations. Some are committed to education, others to the arts, and many to providing much-needed social services addressing issues such as homelessness, food insecurity, mental illness, and unemployment,” said Jane Wernette, NCTV17 Community Development Director and current Spotlight host. “However, like the nonprofit organizations we showcase on Spotlight, NCTV17 relies on charitable donations to fulfill our vision of creating an informed, connected, and engaged community.”

In June, NCTV17’s Spotlight program was honored to accept a Community Service Grant from the Rotary Club of Naperville in recognition of how the station helps so many other nonprofit organizations tell their stories.

The latest episode of Spotlight and a full library of individual interviews are available for viewing or to listen to on podcasts on the station’s website.