Aleasha Hintz—Staff Writer
When KDCR started, radio was a lively, fast paced, and a high-tech work environment. The industry provided the perfect opportunity for a small, community-based college like Dordt.
The station began as an outreach ministry in order to reach “every square-inch” of the community. In fact, many of the station’s first records were donated from local, personal collections.
B.J. Haan himself got involved and hosted a daily 15-minute talk show. His wife, Deborah Haan, even had a cooking show on the station. In the beginning, KDCR had no permanent or full-time workers, and operated with college students at the controls.
Among the early employees was Jim Bolkema, who started working for KDCR in the mid-1970s. As a music major with an interest in technology, radio provided the perfect blend of his interests. All of its bulky headphones, LP records, buttons, and sliders intrigued him.
KDCR provided an educational opportunity unlike many others and has continued to connect Dordt to the Siouxland community.
Since its founding, KDCR has evolved into a full-service station for Sioux Center. For years, it has provided weather updates and warnings, news, school closings, Sunday church services, and—of course—modern Christian contemporary music.
“We reflect Dordt,” Bolkema said, “I hear many people not necessarily saying ‘I listen to KDCR,’ but they do say, ‘I listen to Dordt.’”
Another familiar voice on the station is Christian Zylstra. He also has a strong connection to Dordt. His grandfather served as a president of the college, and his father was an alumnus.
Zylstra attended Dordt and landed a work study position at KDCR. After graduating, he began working for the station full-time as a station announcer and sponsorship coordinator, as well as filling in wherever needed. Part of his job included extensive traveling to cover Dordt athletics.
Once while traveling with his roommate to cover a Dordt volleyball game in Nebraska, they decided to stop at Chick-fil-A.
“This kid,” Zylstra said, “recognized my voice while I was ordering a spicy crispy chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A.”
The boy walked right up to him, brought up an old morning program, and then asked:
“Do you do trivia on the radio?”
According to Zylstra, the boy couldn’t have been more than six years old. It shocked him that not only did the boy recognize and act excited to meet Zylstra but had the courage to go up and talk to him.
“I always joke around—” Zylstra said, “a local celebrity? You know, I’m getting recognized in other cities here.”
KDCR was more than just a job for Bolkema and Zylstra. They both grew to love the station for the community within the staff.
“That’s the thing about radio is,” Bolkema said, “you’re part of my family because I listen to you everyday… There’s power in what you’re doing and in the message that you’re bringing to people.”
Aaron Medberry, a senior worship arts major, started working at the station as part of a work study after transferring to Dordt from another school.
“I got to enjoy chats with Jim and Christian every once in a while,” Medberry said, “Talking about random things, like the latest movies… or complaints for the sports broadcast or other Dordt news… Sometimes they asked me about how things were on campus, for myself. It made it easier to transition.”
Greta Haas, a sophomore public relations major, is another Dordt student who has helped keep KDCR running.
“It didn’t seem like I would get super attached, but then being there—I just really liked the people, and the environment, and the work.”
But unfortunately, that environment is disappearing. KDCR will cease broadcasting on May 14, after 53 years of service to the Siouxland community and online listeners. The radio frequency has been sold to the K-LOVE radio network.
The full-time staff knew about the transition for months but were not allowed to share the news with student employees—they learned they would lose their KDCR positions through the same email that broke the news to the rest of campus.
There were mixed reactions from the staff, including disappointment, anger, and irritation.
“I’m honored that I get to be one of the last people to work there,” Medberry said, “Because if it wasn’t going to be here next year, it [wouldn’t] feel like Dordt.”
The last staff members of KDCR got together for the final time for a dinner to reminisce about their time at the station. They talked about what they would miss and exchanged stories of burping on the air, lighting news scripts on fire, sleeping in past their shifts, and other radio mishaps.
Saying goodbye to KDCR is bittersweet. The release of the station gives the Dordt Media Network more opportunities, but a fixture in community is passing away.
“KDCR functions as a bridge between the academic community and the broader community” Bolkema said, “I think—I know—that it is going to be sorely missed by many people.”