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Community radio 88.5 KRFY rises to the pandemic challenge

by SUZY PREZ and CHRIS BESSLER Contributing Writers
| March 31, 2021 1:00 AM

What a year the past 12 months have presented for everyone – but despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, 88.5 KRFY Community Radio stayed on the air 24/7.

As a nonprofit organization powered by a cadre of volunteer broadcasters, KRFY's station operations were dramatically impacted when the pandemic began closing local businesses and requiring that people stay distanced. With the virus circulating, KRFY's board and managers believed the small, close-in studio where broadcasters operate the soundboard and conduct its talk and music shows might be potentially unsafe.

So on March 13, 2020, KRFY aired its last live broadcast with a volunteer in the studio – for the record, it was the Jazz Over Sandpoint show, with host John Rohyans. From that point on, for the past year, the station has relied on its automated RadioLogik Scheduler to stay on the air. Some of the broadcasters learned how to podcast their shows, and the hosts of the station's live current affairs program, the Morning Show, created a new show called Community Conversations. It now airs 8 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday with interviews recorded remotely via Zoom and telephone.

“Not being able to get into the broadcast room has been a problem,” said Charlie Parrish, president of KRFY's board of directors. “But we've been able to get around that and we are easing back into the station now. A lot of our folks that are primary contributors to the station have been vaccinated, and that's a big plus.”

Station manager Suzy Prez said “it has been a year to remember in many ways.” But she added that during the year there was an outpouring of support with donations from listeners and sustained underwriting by businesses.

“The challenges were many but the support of the community brought KRFY through, and that was truly heartwarming,” said Prez. “It seems like the hard times brought out kindness and generosity, and we are truly grateful.”

There is something else special about 2021 for KRFY: The nonprofit community station is celebrating the 10th anniversary of first going on the air. KRFY began with a small group of friends talking informally at Eichardt’s in 2006, which led to an application with the FCC for a license to broadcast in 2007. After years of community outreach, fundraising and planning, 88.5 KRFY went live on the air January 25, 2011. Today the station is operated by a staff of three part-time employees and 20-plus volunteers.

The pandemic robbed the station from holding a birthday party in January. But as it works to get back to normal, the many volunteers who power its diverse programming are eager to get back into the broadcast studio. As Mike Bauer, host of the 70s Classic and 80s Echoes shows, said, “I am so grateful and happy to be back doing what I love doing – showcasing classic rock from the 70s and 80s.”

More local voices and new shows will be coming back soon. Parrish said the KRFY board and staff are hopeful that the station will be fully back to normal by fall, or before.

“We're slowly on our way back to normal,” he said. “And we welcome all support in volunteer time or donated dollars, because in trying to get back to normal both of those things will be required.”

Listen to KRFY airing 24/7 at 88.5 FM, or hear it streaming over the web at www.krfy.org, where podcasts of Community Conversations are also available following each airtime.