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WSLS-TV dedicates fifth Habitat For Humanity 'Home for Good'

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It’s a Home for Good.

Smiles, cheers and well-wishes greeted the Ayamba family in Roanoke, Virginia, as 14 family members stood proudly on their new front porch.

WSLS 10 partnered with Habitat For Humanity in the Roanoke Valley on the station’s fifth project.

This year’s Home for Good, the Apostle Build project, also included support from Journey FM and 20 area churches.

“What an amazing feeling to be up here on this porch, leading to this beautiful home WE built,” WSLS 10 Vice President and General Manager Jaimie Leon said. “We are grateful for our partnership with Habitat For Humanity, our generous corporate sponsors and our wonderful volunteers.”

War forced the Ayamba family from their home in Central Africa. The Ayambas moved from refugee camp to refugee camp before relocating in the United States. They settled in Roanoke in 2016, with the goal of building a better life for their 12 children who range in age from 1 to 25.

“Well it’s very incredible that we’re here on the porch of the house," said Mwenebatu Ayamba, the oldest son. “It’s very exciting and I’m really happy for this.”

WSLS 10’s John Carlin and Brittny McGraw broadcast this year’s house dedication live during the station’s 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. newscasts.

This Habitat project was the largest build ever, featuring seven bedrooms.

WSLS 10 staff members rolled up their sleeves and worked side-by-side with the family and volunteers during the four-month build.

“I think it’s easy to forget that with a house this size, how much more work is involved,” said Brian Clark, a Habitat construction manager. “If you think of some of our single-story builds, this is like taking two houses and stacking them on top of each other, and so it’s easy to forget that much more work.”

Habitat For Humanity Roanoke Valley has built 244 homes serving more than 1041 individuals since 1986.

WSLS embraces cutting-edge technology in new studio

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In late April, WSLS-TV celebrated its first day in a new building, which hadn't happened in more than 63 years.

The team unveiled the new set on "Virginia Today." The new studio is the culmination of many months of hard work, and more than a year of planning.

Roanoke's first television news station has moved from downtown to a location that's close to the Berglund Center. WSLS now boasts a brand-new, state-of-the-art set with all the latest television broadcast technology.

Graham Media Group CEO Emily Barr said it's as much the viewers' home as it is the station's.

"The building by itself is going to be the key," Barr said. "It's the magic that happens inside."

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WSLS team members spent weeks extensively training on the new set, doing rehearsal after rehearsal. The production department put in a lot of long days and nights, learning the ins and outs of the new advanced system. Without this team, the newscast couldn't happen.

It took at least 15 miles of cables to make this set come to life.

"This set embraces a lot of new technology (and) a lot of display technology that's just being developed," said Michael Wright, a set designer.

Wright meticulously designed every square inch of this set.

"It's like having a baby," Wright said. "It really is giving birth to something and it's a lot of moving parts -- a lot of interrelated pieces so I am super proud of it."

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There's a news cube wall, which allows a 90-degree turn in video.

As Wright explains, it's the tiny details that really make the set pop.

"The hard scenics on the set are fabric, printed fabric," said Wright. "Like you print shirts in the store, they can now print fabrics for scenery and that's built with internal lights so that instead of the old days that you front light from the studio, this is internally lit so it has more of a luminous feel -- and that in turn makes talent look good."

The new set also enhances Storm Team 10's ability to track severe weather.

WSLS takes home 4 first-place honors at Virginias Associated Press Awards

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WSLS 10 has been honored with four first-places awards as well as two more second-place honors in the Associated Press Awards for the Virginias.

WSLS 10 took home more honors than any other television station in the Roanoke-Lynchburg, Virginia market.

“These wins are station wins and everyone should be proud of our accomplishments,” Vice President and General Manager Jaimie Leon said. "I couldn’t be more proud of our team, and that’s what it takes to do excellent journalism -- TEAMWORK.”

The 10 Sports team of John Appicello, Alyssa Rae and Eric Johnson won the Best Sports Operations of the Virginias for the second consecutive year.

First-place awards went to:

  • Continuing Coverage: “Abduction of Baby Emma” (WSLS staff)

  • Outstanding Sports Operation of the Virginias: (John Appicello, Alyssa Rae, Eric Johnson)

  • Multimedia/Online Journalism: “Aircraft Carrier Landing” (John Carlin and Lee Friesland)

  • Old Dominion Heritage: “Craig County Barn Quilts” (John Carlin and Carter Malpass)

And in second place, WSLS earned the following honors:

  • Website: WSLS.com (Jeff Williamson, Heather Butterworth, Samantha Smith)

  • Serious Feature: “Second Chance” (Jessica Jewell and Lee Friesland).

WSLS 10 competes in the large-market division, which includes Roanoke/Lynchburg, Richmond, and Norfolk, Virginia markets as well as Charleston, West Virginia.