Killaloe – The community radio station in the village, CHCR – Homegrown Community Radio – is in danger of closing due to a lack of volunteers after 25 years of broadcasting music, news and entertainment in the area.
“We are a community tool and a medium for the community like a town herald,” said Lyn Davis, a member of the board. “Radio allows us to reach a lot of people; this is a hub of community culture and music.”
Broadcasting from Lake Street in Killaloe in the oldest building in town, CHCR hit the airwaves in May of 1998. With a repeater in Wilno, the station reaches across the Bonnechere, Madawaska and Upper Ottawa Valley. Volunteer run, the station has hosted a variety of shows over the years featuring all kinds of music, including rock, reggae, classical, fiddle, electronic, Latin, country, jazz and spiritual. There is also the local aspect.
“You will hear stuff you never hear on commercial radio,” she said. “It is local, local stories, local people.
“My vision is showcasing this community, even our local history,” she added.
Now, there is a danger the station will close and for the core group of volunteers, this is a tragedy. A letter of appeal sent out to supporters recently outlined the issue.
“CHCR has been struggling to keep afloat, especially the past year. With the loss of active community members and board members, CHCR is in trouble. If you are interested in keeping CHCR, we will need more involvement from you and others,” the letter noted.
“There is the dire possibility that CHCR will have to close down. After all the work of so many people over the past 25 years, it is a sad ending,” the letter continued. “But it doesn’t have to end now. If we get more people involved as volunteers, members, DJs, show hosts and board members, we have the potential to have our CHCR become the Homegrown Community Radio that it is meant to be.”
The station has suffered several blows in the last few years with the loss of tireless volunteers. Peter Benner, who was very closely associated with the radio station, died suddenly in 2021. More recently Wayne Morris died and just this year the treasurer died.
“It is the vibrant energy we lost,” said Shawn Hayes, another board member. “Now we have to do double duty.”
Now, the core group is hoping they will be able to enlist more volunteers to help or they fear the station which has been such an important part of village life will have to close.
“We need good networkers and people do to outreach,” she said.
Right now the station broadcasts 24 hours a day. Due to dramatic changes in technology, they are able to keep broadcasting with the extensive collection of music even without having a DJ on the premises. A program called Radio Boss picks out songs at random from the collection and loads them.
Station Manager Lyall Davis said having people involved in community engagement is crucial to keeping the radio station going and even doing the paperwork. His own education is in broadcasting and he is passionate about keeping the radio station on air.
“Since the mid-2000s, volunteers got in short supply,” he said. “I studied radio broadcasting and I was a mainstay.
“Then during Covid it was me and Peter keeping the station going,” he said. “We are looking for a new influx of motivated people, looking for things to do and to help out.”
To gain more exposure for CHCR, attract volunteers and raise funds, they will be at Station Park this weekend on Saturday during the Irish Gathering with records for sale, especially records on focusing on the music of the British Isles. There will also be scones available by donation.
Another fundraiser this weekend is the pancake breakfast on Sunday at the Lions Hall from 9:30-1 p.m.
All three are hoping more people will join the radio station by purchasing a membership and most important stepping forward to volunteer. The station can be heard on 102.9 in Killaloe and 104.5 in Wilno or streaming online. For more info on CHCR, go to CHCR.org.