Klukwan pastor begins short-range radio transmissions


November 12, 2020

Courtesy of Jami Campbell

Pastor Jami Campbell is using a short-range radio transmitter to host drive-in movie nights and broadcast Sunday services in Klukwan. Campbell's eventual goal is to use the transmitter to start a community radio station.

Human connection has been hard for many since the pandemic began. In Klukwan, Pastor Jami Campbell is working to bring people together during socially distanced times-she's starting a short-range radio station.

"I've been sitting and contemplating all the creative ways that people can connect because one of the things everyone is struggling with is a lack of connection," Campbell said. "People are meant to be around each other. In unique ways, we are all struggling with wanting to be connected."

Pandemic-induced isolation is particularly pronounced in Klukwan. The village has been closed to visitors since the start of the pandemic and residents have limited their visits to Haines, according to Klukwan resident Marvin Willard.

"There's nothing else going on. You can't go out to get a cup of coffee, so (Campbell's efforts are) a big boost to the morale of the village. It is for me, at least. I'm a real people person," Willard said.

Campbell participates in regular Zoom calls with other Assembly of God pastors where the problem of isolation is regularly discussed. She said the idea for a radio station came from hearing another pastor talk about drive-in movie events.

"The Petersburg church was the first one I'd heard of doing drive-in movies in a parking lot using a short-range broadcaster. I thought, that's a great idea," Campbell said.

It turns out, she wasn't the only one who thought this was a great idea. Short-range radio transmitter sales have spiked during the pandemic. By the time Campbell attempted to order one for Klukwan, it was on backorder.

It took four months, but eventually, the transmitter arrived. Campbell began intermittently broadcasting Sunday services but said she ran into the problem that not everyone in Klukwan had a radio.

"We'd say, 'Would you be interested in listening to a church service broadcast?' People would say, 'I'd want to listen, but I don't have a radio,'" she said. "That was an easy fix." Campbell worked with Klukwan's COVID-19 task force to buy small radios for every household in the community.

"Now that everyone in Kluwkan has a radio, our broadcasts are going to be really consistent up through Christmas," she said.

The radio station is still in its early stages. Campbell said she has the equipment set up and is trying to expand regular programming beyond church services.

"I have a few people who are interested. It's just a matter of scheduling, making it come together," Campbell said, listing an individual with a background in exercise and nutrition as well as a group that's interested in broadcasting Tlingit language conversations.

Campbell said she welcomes input from other Klukwan residents interested in developing programming.

"I play guitar and sing, so I might do that," Willard said. He said he thinks the radio station will really take off once people become accustomed to the idea.

Campbell has also put the transmitter to use hosting a drive-in movie night on Halloween. Connecting both the transmitter and a projector to a computer, she was able to screen It's a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Nacho Libre to a group of roughly 14 assembled in vehicles.

"The movie night was terrific. It was like the old days, when they had a movie in the Haines theater, they always had a cartoon first and then the movie," Willard said. "Our village is blocked off, we don't get to do much of anything. Her doing that gave us something to look forward to. It got people out of the house."

Campbell said it may be a little while before there's another movie screening. The logistics are difficult because the equipment needs to be protected from the snow and rain. "For me, a radio station is more achievable," she said.

Those interested in listening can tune in at 107.7 FM. It's a short-range transmission, roughly one mile in radius.


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