Local resident receives award for volunteer work
Many around Two Harbors have heard her voice, but most have never seen her face or are unaware of the number hours she's put into making Two Harbors' community radio station a success.
Fran Kaliher, a founder of KTWH-LP 99.5 FM, was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award from former President Barack Obama for more than 5,000 hours of volunteer work at the station and various other community organizations over the past few years.
Kaliher's award was through the AmeriCorps Retired and Senior Volunteer Program that tracks volunteer hours with registered volunteer organizations in partnership with the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency. Most of Kaliher's volunteer hours recorded for the award were through the radio station, but it began when she was on the board of the Friends of the Two Harbors Public Library.
"I am passionate about libraries, I think they are such a great public resources," she said. "Once I became aware of them and how many extra things the Friends add on to the library, it made me want to help. It's partly to support the mission of whatever they are about but it is also a community building thing that lets me meet people that are outside of my usual circle of acquaintances. Volunteering is a great way to diversify the field of people that you come in contact with."
Kaliher has also spent countless hours working with the Brimson Volunteer Fire Department for 14 years. She started working for the BVFD in 2000, following a major blowdown in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 1999. Following the blowdown, the U.S. Forest Service began training citizens in fighting wildfires and after completing the training, she was recruited to join the fire department.
Kaliher took a step back from the BVFD when she heard about new kind of radio license established in 2011 that allowed for a broadcast radius of about 10 miles, "just perfect for Two Harbors," Kaliher said.
"It would force us to be Two Harbors-centered and not Duluth-centered," she said. "The big stations aren't going to talk about what is going on in Two Harbors. I thought it would help Two Harbors build community and a sense of identity. Volunteering was the only way to do it because no one was going to pay me."
Kaliher saw the radio station as a way to bring together different perspectives and viewpoints in the community. The station is working to be more inclusive and add even more voices to its repertoire and soon Kaliher hopes to be able to add a call-in element to some of the shows the station offers. She said right now the station has about 60 percent of it content that is locally produced, but she is hoping to bring that percentage up.
"I think it is important in these times, even though we don't have much racial diversity in this town there is socioeconomic diversity, and to know people personally that are operating in different worlds with the personal challenges that they have, it really teaches tolerance and acceptance of other people," she said.
Kaliher said she is taking a step back from the station to focus on her personal life a little more, but she encouraged people to become involved with any organizations they have a passion for.
"There are so many opportunities for volunteerism out there, but you have to find something that really grabs you, that you are passionate about," she said. "That's how the radio project hit me — suddenly I seemed to have unlimited energy and time for it, was willing to go all out. But I couldn't conjure that up for most other causes, no matter how sympathetic I might be to them, at any given time. You'll know it when you find something you are willing to go all out for."