By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
For the sixth year, the KSER Foundation is presenting its awards recognizing people who make a positive difference in their communities. This year, there’s something new on the horizon.
Guests at Saturday’s Voice of the Community Awards celebration, at 7 p.m. in the Henry M. Jackson Center at Everett Community College, will learn about the people and organizations being honored. They will also hear about the new station.
“The purpose of Saturday’s event is to honor the winners,” said Tom Clendening, station manager at KSER 90.7 FM. “We’ll be talking about a number of things — KSER and KXIR.”
Shayne Kraemer, KSER’s development director, said the awards are “a great opportunity to recognize those individuals and organizations that really impact our region in a positive way, and make our communities stronger.”
For 2013, there are several award categories. The winners are:
• Community Impact by an Individual: Kristin Ebeling, skate park director for the Mukilteo YMCA; and Sandra VanderVen, senior organizer for Fuse Washington, a nonprofit group promoting the common good in public policy.
• Community Impact by an Organization: Japanese Gulch Group, which advocates for preservation of Mukilteo’s Japanese Gulch area.
• Community Impact by a Business: Economic Alliance Snohomish County, which works to boost employment and economic vitality through partnerships and other efforts.
• Cultural Impact by an Organization: Everett Music Initiative, which brings musicians from around the region to Everett music venues.
• Cultural Impact by a Business: Whidbey Telecom, which provides telecommunications and security services on Whidbey Island.
Ebeling, 24, said she is pleased to get an award “for being a voice for people who maybe don’t have a loud voice.”
“Kids who choose skateboarding as their sport are sometimes seen as bad kids,” said Ebeling, who is involved in creating a new indoor skate park at the Mukilteo YMCA. “We created a space for this healthy activity for kids who often don’t gravitate to team sports.”
Ebeling, who has competed in international skateboard events, conducted a summer skate camp called Skate Like a Girl, for girls and young women. “I started skating when I was 12. I remember being called names just because I was a girl,” she said.
The awards selection process starts with nominations from the public, Kraemer said. Winners are chosen by a panel that includes past award recipients and members of the KSER Foundation board and staff.
While those being honored Saturday are the voices of their community, KSER Foundation is ensuring that the community will have another voice in the future.
Brenda Mann Harrison, president of the KSER Foundation’s board of directors, said the new tower and station were born of opportunity.
“Several years ago, the last full-powered FM frequency became available for this region,” she said. “The KSER Foundation applied for this valuable public resource. It’s really important to preserve this resource under local control.”
When the KSER Foundation was selected by the Federal Communications Commission and granted a construction permit, approval came with a deadline. The new tower must be in operation by Nov. 30. “We’re on track to make that happen,” Harrison said.
Clendening said the plan is to simulcast for at least six months, with KSER content on both signals. The foundation has held several public forums, and plans to seek more comments about what will eventually be aired on KXIR.
The KSER Foundation has launched a $510,000 capital campaign to pay for construction of the KXIR tower and three years of operating expenses for the new station.
Harrison said the new station will expand the reach of community-based, commercial-free public radio. “Together, KSER and KXIR 89.9 will reach 1.3 million residents in north Puget Sound — Snohomish and Island counties, and parts of King, Skagit and Jefferson counties,” she said.
“This new signal can reach areas KSER doesn’t,” Clendening said. “It doubles our footprint.”
The existing 6,000-watt KSER tower is at Lake Stevens. The new 1,000-watt tower is on a small, privately owned piece of property in Greenbank measuring 70 feet by 70 feet. The KSER Foundation has a long-term lease with the owner. “We have options to renew almost into perpetuity,” Clendening said.
He said the 180-foot tower is surrounded by 145-foot trees. “It doesn’t have to be painted and we don’t need any lights on it. We have done our best to be sensitive to neighbors,” he said.
At the start, KXIR will operate out of KSER’s station on Wetmore Avenue in downtown Everett.
“That’s the plan for the foreseeable future,” Clendening said. “Who knows what the future might bring?”
KSER awards event Saturday
The KSER Foundation will present its annual Voice of the Community Awards at a celebration starting at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Henry M. Jackson Conference Center at Everett Community College, 2000 Tower St., Everett. Event includes a silent auction, music, cash bar, and gourmet hors d’oeuvres and sweets. Tickets $15 at the door.
For more about KXIR 89.9, a second independent public radio station: http://kxir.org
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.