By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

BENSALEM – Joe and Elly Kline weren’t yet married when they started what became Northeast Total Communications, now NTC Inc., a company which provides audio, video, closed circuit TV and other services to industry – and quite a few local Catholic parishes and schools.

Joe, who was from Maternity B.V.M. in Philadelphia and Elly Fricker who belonged to St. Charles Parish in Bensalem, were in their twenties when they met at a Catholic singles dance 30 years ago.

Soon they were dating, and Joe, a technician with an office equipment firm, confided to her that he would like to start his own communications business.

“Go for it,” she urged.

Joe started the business with Elly helping out, and the next year they were married.

It wasn’t easy at first, and luckily Joe kept his day job. His first big break came when he landed a contract to supply internal communications to Food Fair supermarkets. That was erased when Food Fair went bankrupt. Another contract, this time with Muzak Corp., proved to be a winner. You might say it was sweet music for the fledgling company.

The parish work came about almost by accident.

A pastor of St. Ephrem Parish in Bensalem – where Elly was teaching – knew Joe had experience in audio asked him to install a sound system in the parish hall for bingo.

He did so and word of mouth got around, and that, along with judicious direct mailing, resulted in a new revenue stream for their little company.

The Klines, who raised two children, Joseph and Mary,are now members of St. Mark Parish in Bristol. They estimate half of their business is churches and schools.

Sound systems for churches are an important part of the work. It’s not necessarily old churches. New churches often have sound systems designed by architects, not sound specialists, and sometimes may not be as effective as a pastor would wish, Elly noted.

“The liturgy depends on the spoken word and Eucharist,” she said. “Hearing easily and clearly is primary.”

Systems can even be designed to assist the hearing-impaired, she noted. Such systems might provide ear buds through which the input is tied only to the feed going into the amplifiers, not the sound which comes out – which becomes intermingled with extraneous noises in the church.

Starting with audio, NTC branched into such related items as internal phone systems, closed circuit TV, and a sign of the times, security which includes security cameras and card-swipe entry systems.

Installing more surveillance cameras is not the ultimate solution to security concerns, Elly noted, because the cameras are only effective after the fact; they record what is done but can’t usually prevent it. The Klines advise pastors and principals to consider proactive solutions to their security concerns.

Joe estimates NTC has worked with up to a hundred parishes and schools over the years.

“I like dealing with the different pastors and businesses managers, and they are very thankful. There is a friendliness you don’t get in the private sector,” he said.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.