MATTHEWS – Chris Melton began volunteering one year ago as a host at WDZD 99.1, a nonprofit radio station in Monroe.
Melton, who is a cousin of co-founder John Griffin, became interested in radio at a young age. He came into the WDZD studio, recorded a few spots and became hooked again.
Now that he no longer serves as a Matthews commissioner, Melton hosts five or six shows a week.
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“It’s a lot less stressful than town government, I promise you that,” Melton said jokingly. “With the path commercial radio is taking … there was a void in small towns or small cities like Monroe for your Stone Table Restaurant, Oasis Sandwich Shop, those local businesses that have been the cornerstone of the community, like that ‘small-town feel’ we always talk about in Matthews. And we at the station fill that void.”
Griffin said the station was originally created in 2013 to preserve beach music of the 1960s and 1970s and provide the community with the news and information that mattered most.
“So far, it has done that,” Griffin said. “We also wanted to get into the community because the larger, mega-stations bought so many radio stations, they got away from the community.”
WDZD is a low-power station, meaning its radio waves do not reach beyond Monroe city limits. However, with the increased popularity of streaming, its listenership extends into all parts of the Carolinas and as far as Alaska.
Griffin said listeners everywhere enjoy the community feel, as well as the beach music. The station also broadcasts some of the Monroe High School football games, which allows relatives to listen in and follow the action.
The station’s local impact can be seen in its work with nonprofit organizations.
“Nonprofits, to us, have a special place in our hearts,” Melton said. “That’s our brethren.”
Host Greg Baucom said the station often has nonprofit organizers come in to tell listeners about their organizations and how to get involved. In winter 2019, the station supported the Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry and watched listeners rally behind the cause.
“We were on the air on a Friday for a radiothon and listeners came in to drop off food,” Melton said. “By any metric, it was a success. We had a lobby full of food from listeners bringing it to help Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry.”
Then, Melton said, the impact got much bigger than the station imagined. A listener came into the station and said he had four palettes of dry, good food to donate. Melton said there was so much food that the nonprofit could not even pick it up, and another listener donated money for a truck to transport the food to the ministry.
“That is, in my opinion, the definition of community radio,” Melton said. “We’ve got a resource. We’ve got a way to touch people and reach people. It’s our responsibility to use it to make stuff like that happen.”
On the web: www.wdzdfm.org
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