COLUMBIA — Live jazz piano music played in the background during a fundraiser held by Columbia radio station KOPN/89.5 FM on Thursday evening.
KOPN held the event at Perlow-Stevens Gallery to raise money for the station and to celebrate its recent pledge drive that occurred from Oct. 16 to 23.
John Betz, board president of KOPN, said the seven-day drive raised about $27,000, though donations are welcomed year-round.
“It’s a very successful drive,” he said. “And we’re still expecting more donations to come in.”
Betz said the funds will help cover general expenses of the station, including the maintenance of the two towers and the replacement of equipment.
As a local radio station, KOPN relies on paid membership and grant money from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting to operate. Betz said recognition and support from the community is vital to its survival and success.
"We depend on paid members to be able to be on the air,” he said. “Every penny that is given to KOPN goes into the air room.”
A loyal listener and financial supporter of the station for almost 38 years, Betz has been a board member of KOPN for three years and became president last month.
“I discovered KOPN in 1973 and was hooked the month it went on the air,” he said.
“In recent years I think I should devote some labor, too, and I’m having a ball. I absolutely love it,” the 60-year-old said, laughing.
Betz said that despite the night being a fundraising event, the primary purpose was to thank those who have helped out during the pledge drive and to provide an opportunity for audience members to mingle.
“This is the sort of thing I’d like for our station to be doing a lot more often: social events and public outreach,” he said.
KOPN also would like to offer groups and individuals who are often unrepresented in the media a chance to speak up in the air, he said.
“We’ve had thousands of people in mid-Missouri come up the stairs at 915 E. Broadway in 38 years and have access to the air,” Betz said. “I always say that’s what democracy is all about — if you don’t have access to the media, you don’t have democracy.”
Jennifer Perlow, the co-owner of Perlow-Stevens Gallery, said she didn’t hesitate to let KOPN host the event at her gallery for free when Betz asked for help.
“I think it’s very important to support things that are about your community,” she said. “Other radio stations might have national advertisers, but KOPN is really a little nugget that’s only about Columbia. It’s local.”
Dan Nelson, local farmer and owner of DanJo Farms and Rise N’ Shine Bakery, was among the long list of contributors who donated refreshments to the event. Other donors included Missouri Legacy Beef and Elderberry Life.
Nelson, who has been one of the underwriters — a supporter whose donations go to specific programs — at KOPN for four years, said he enjoyed the occasion and thinks the station provides a platform for groups to convey their opinions.
“The local businessmen and the community have a voice for their interest and their concerns, too,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for us to basically share with the community and get our voices heard.”
The radio station will celebrate its 38th year serving the Columbia community in March.
KOPN is the first community radio station to serve a population of less than 100,000, Betz said. It is also the eighth oldest community radio station in the United States.
“That is something that mid-Missouri could be really proud of,” he said. “We’re the voice of the community.”
Donations can be made online at kopn.org, by mail to 915 E. Broadway or at the station. Anyone who wishes to volunteer and voice opinions on the air can contact the station at 874-1139.