LEIPSIC — Driving through the country roads of Leipsic, you wouldn’t notice the makeshift Catholic radio station set up along Road 8-E.
Blink and you just might miss the construction trailer nestled against a cornfield housing the studio — if it weren’t for the protruding radio tower.
This year, Holy Family Radio is celebrating 10 years of being on the air and will be more than doubling its audience and reaching into Lima for the first time.
“I would say a lot of people from Putnam County know we are here, but I’m not sure about anything beyond that,” said Connie Recker, who manages public relations and organizational-type work for the station.
The station first went on air Aug. 10, 2010, on 88.9 FM in Glandorf and Leipsic, making it Northwest Ohio’s first full-time Catholic radio station and the first in the Toledo Diocese. In April, they acquired WONB 94.9 from Ohio Northern University, which will expand its reach from about 75,000 to 200,000 listeners.
The accomplishment is well beyond what founder Tom Deitering, who died in 2012, ever imagined.
“One night he was tuning into different stations on the radio and he picked up EWTN, which is Eternal World Television Network, out of Irondale, Alabama, and it was a Catholic radio station, which he found very interesting,” recalled Tom’s wife and station co-founder, Mary Ann Deitering. “He began to research it because he felt there was a real need for evangelizing and sharing the truths of our Catholic faith.”
After sharing the idea with their church group, he knew he wanted to share this station and its messaging with other people in the area.
“Tom was a retired landscaper — he knew very little about broadcasting and radio — but he was on a mission,” she said, chuckling.
He traveled to Cincinnati, Fort Wayne and Ann Arbor to talk with Catholic radio station owners and also reached out to local stations in Delphos and Lima for guidance.
After gaining more confidence and certainty in the passion project, the Deiterings began taking trips down to Irondale and EWTN’s Catholic radio conferences.
“We learned that they provide programming to anyone that can start a radio station, but they have to get their own equipment — the tower, the antenna, the whole works. So we hired an engineer from Fort Wayne to search for radio frequencies and tell us what we needed.”
In 2009, they acquired the 88.9 FM frequency in Glandorf from the FCC and a permit to build a station. Tom Deitering went to work finding a tower and they found a construction trailer in Cincinnati that they could use to craft their own studio.
Once the equipment was acquired, they began to reach out to Putnam County churches and parishioners, who hopped on board. The building of the tower and makeshift radio station trailer were all completed on volunteer work and equipment from board president Leo Schroeder’s fertilizer plant in Glandorf.
“All the work that had to be done was volunteer,” Schroeder said. “We were very, very thrifty. We saved every cent we could and here we are today.”
Last year, the chance to purchase Ohio Northern’s WONB station “fell into their lap.”
“A lot of colleges are divesting of assets and radio stations are one of those things that are on the edge between the cost-benefit ratio,” managing director and host Deacon Jeff Compton said. “We first learned about it in August of 2019, and then we were able to finalize the sale in April 2020.”
With the broadcast license also came their equipment to run a commercial station for about 20 years — quite an upgrade from what they use on a daily basis out of the trailer. Despite the sizeable purchase, which also came during the COVID-19 pandemic that stressed the finances of parishes, Holy Family Radio took on the new license without taking any additional debt.
“That’s the positive thing about this ministry is that through the generosity of our listeners, donors, underwriters and all the folks that helped build this have made it possible for us to do this without taking on any debt,” Managing Director and host Jeff Compton said. “We get no funding from other places, there are no grants and nothing that we get from anywhere else to make this possible.”
With their existing license, Holy Family Radio’s capabilities spanned about 40 miles in radius from the tower.
For now, much of the station’s programming is that available from EWTN, but with the expansion, Compton said he’s hopeful they can add to that.
“Throughout the rest of the year, we want to be able to visit parishes to foster relationships with them because we’re here to serve them, to get the word out about their events and those sorts of things to help minister to more people,” he said. “If I look further down, I would love to be able to broadcast sports like a Lima Central Catholic. We’d love to be able to put on the air their football and basketball games, for example, and grow our audience and just be able to be more active in the communities that we serve.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.