BEAVER SPRINGS - After working with local radio stations for many years, technician Clint Heiser saw something missing in the central Pennsylvania airwaves - southern gospel music.
Heiser approached his pastor, the Rev. Dr. Denny Mallonee at Faith Baptist Church in Beaver Springs, about starting a new radio station.
WFBM 100.1 FM, which stands for Wonderful Faith Bible Ministries, first aired in 2004 through Heiser's dream.
Sentinel photos by MICAIAH WISE BILGER
The WFBM radio station studio is located in an old house in Beaver Springs, next to the Faith Baptist Church. The non-profit southern gospel station will host a benefit concert on Friday with the Whisnants and True Heart.
"We saw a need," Mallonee said. "There was (no southern gospel station) here in the area."
The visionary group "kicked in and made the sacrifices" to start the station, Mallonee said.
Heiser, the chief engineer of the station, set up the whole operation, which includes a studio, fully-automated system and access points from his home and the pastor's office.
Seven years later, organizers of the non-profit station are making plans to expand.
"We're going to cover the whole Susquehanna Valley," Mallonee said. "And we're excited about it."
The station operates a tower on Firestone Ridge near McClure; a second tower on Shade Mountain and a third in Selinsgrove are being prepared for use, he said.
The new tower in Selinsgrove will reach out from Beaver Springs to Northumberland, New Berlin to Pillow.
Still, the station organizers have several things to complete before they can broadcast on the new frequencies, 90.1 and 90.5 FM. A shelter around the tower must be built, and they must wait for the Federal Aviation Administration to approve a light on the tower, the pastor said.
The cost for the antenna alone was $12,000, and while the church is leasing the land at minimal costs, the expenses to expand still are high for the non-profit, which runs solely on donations.
The transmitter and antenna have been placed and tested, and Mallonee predicted that the new frequencies officially will go on the air in September. The station will broadcast announcements to let listeners know exactly when the change will occur, he said.
When the new towers are up and running, listeners will have to move their dials from the 100.1 FM station to 90.1 in the eastern portion of the station's coverage area or 90.5 FM for the west.
To gain the two new towers, WFBM had to give up the 100.1 frequency, he said.
Original expansion plans also included a tower in the Lewistown area, but the station's application for the frequency fell through, Mallonee said.
The WFBM team will continue pursuing opportunities in Lewistown, whether its through another frequency or a transmitter, Mallonee said.
"A lot of people listen and support us out there but can't get (the station)," Mallonee said.
Mallonee said the station already reaches parts of Mifflin and Juniata counties, especially around Big Valley and western Mifflin County; but reception is spotty because of the mountains.
A benefit concert for the station will be held with the Whisnants and True Heart at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the West Snyder Middle School in Beaver Springs.
Tickets will cost $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Children ages 6 to 12 are half price, and children under 6 are free. For more information or tickets, call the Faith Baptist Church at (570) 658-7668.
First and foremost, the concert is a ministry, Mallonee said.
"Music reaches the heart," Mallonee said. "People will come to a gospel concert who don't know God from a lizard."
The pastor said the station has been a way for the church to reach out to people who they otherwise never would have met.
Mallonee has a folder full of thank you letters that the station receives from listeners. The people share stories of ways that the station's music encouraged them through the trials of a spouse dying, a serious illness or major surgery, the pastor said.
WFBM features southern gospel music along with some bluegrass, easy listening and instrumental music. Short programs such as "Keys to Family Living" and occasional locally-produced programs by Mallonee and his church also air. Worship services at Faith Baptist Church air every Sunday morning.
For more information about WFBM, visit them online at www.wfbmradio.org.