Courtesy KGLE

Recognized this month with the National Religious Broadcasters’ Milestone Award for exemplary service, radio station KGLE has been providing inspiration for over 50 years to thousands of listeners who call North Dakota’s Bakken oil reserve and eastern Montana home.

What’s remarkable is how the station has stayed afloat in today’s changing media landscape, even while losing a key private investor. KGLE’s story is a testament to how strong communities and local innovation—in contrast to big government intervention—can sustain the resources that make peoples’ lives better.

KGLE 590 AM in Glendive, Montana, took to the airwaves on August 22, 1962. For three decades the station enjoyed a wide audience, operating in conjunction with the Christian Enterprise Network. But in 1992, the network dropped the station, unable to finance the costs. The station’s mix of local news, faith-based programs, and even agricultural reports that farmers relied on almost went silent.

The concern of families, churches, and other dedicated listeners quickly gave way to excitement and a commitment to save their local hub of community news and conversation. They formed a corporation, Friends of Christian Radio, Inc., then set about finding creative ways to fundraise. KGLE station manager Jim McBride elaborates:

One very successful effort by local farmers was a grain convoy. Farm trucks filled with wheat lined up parade style, complete with hand-painted signs, and filed into Glendive to sell their wheat for the benefit of the station.

Our listeners applied their faith to a very challenging problem. Their enthusiasm produced a large amount of money in a short time in order to meet the conditions for the purchase of the station.

Today, population in the radio station’s coverage area in North Dakota and Montana is booming—thanks largely to new fracking technology enabling oil to be extracted at low cost. KGLE has seen its audience expand further even as local listeners retain full ownership through the nonprofit corporation.

While at the 2013 National Religious Broadcasters’ Convention, KGLE’s Ellen McBride connected with The Heritage Foundation. In a random draw, McBride won a new iPad from Heritage—a fitting close to a big year for the station. “I have thought in the past that an iPad might be a good tool for me to use in my role with station advertising,” said McBride. “Now I’ll have a chance to try to put it to use for our station and the glory of God. Many thanks to The Heritage Foundation for this blessing!”

For stations like KGLE, Heritage has developed Family Facts Radio Feature—a daily 60-second spot now airing on over 400 radio stations across the U.S. Recapping vital facts from the popular research site, the daily radio spots are broadcast from Maine to Mississippi to Montana and dozens of states in between.

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Tessica Glancey is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.