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Friday, January 28, 2022

Community Effort To “Save Our Voice” A Huge Success

Rev. Kittie Ward, left, and Rev. Ruth Saunders are spearheading a community effort to save Washington state's only African American owned and operated radio stations. Photo/Chris B. Bennett
Rev. Kiti Ward, left, and Rev. Ruth Saunders spearheaded the community-based effort to save Washington state’s only African American owned and operated radio stations. Photo/Chris B. Bennett

Chris H. Bennett, chairperson of Kris Bennett Broadcasting, Inc. (KBB) announced that the first phase of the community’s effort to “Save Our Voice” has successfully been completed.

“On Good Friday (last Friday), I received an email from our new, non-profit lender stating that the ‘Heritage Bank settlement payoff is wired,’” said Bennett.

 The payoff of the balloon payment on a bank loan held by Heritage Bank, which is headquartered in Tacoma, ended a bitter battle between Kris Bennett Broadcasting and the loan holder which jeopardized the existence of the Northwest’s only African American owned and operated radio stations.
According to Bennett, the payoff of the loan was by a mutual agreement drawn up by the bank and the legal team representing KBB.

 “Heritage Bank — which was awarded our assets by the FDIC after our original bank, Bay Bank, folded – would not extend or honor the previous bank agreed loan,” said Bennett. “However, I’m very pleased to announce that through the collective efforts of so many in our community that we were able to overcome this economic crisis, and continue serving our community.”

 “I’d especially like to thank Rev. Ruth Saunders and Rev. Kiti Ward, who worked tirelessly to lead the community fight against the redlining of the community voice – KRIZ, KZIZ, KYIZ and KBMS,” added Bennett.

 Bennett was quick to first and foremost give praise to God.

 “This entire process (to save the stations) was a total, God-blessed community effort,” said Bennett. “The “community pastor” Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney gave the first thousand dollars, and donations to help save the stations continued to come in as many from the community gave anywhere from thousands of dollars to any change that they could spare.”

 “One person even brought in a bottle filled with dimes,” added Bennett. “The support from the community was tremendous.”

 In addition to the individual donations, many community fundraisers took place throughout the campaign. Pastor Carey Anderson of First AME Church and Pastor Aaron Williams of Mt. Zion Baptist donated all the collections from their Christmas Eve worship services to the “Save Our Voice” campaign, local advertisers on KBB held a fundraising fashion show/dinner at the MLK Community Center, and a community “Parade of Quartets” fundraising event was held at True Vine Missionary Baptist Church. Community-based organizations like the Central Area Chamber of Commerce under the leadership of DeCharlene Williams, the Kent Black Action Committee and the Black Ministers Alliance also helped out with fundraising efforts of their own.

 Bennett also praised the efforts of the numerous community ambassadors, who gave not only money but their time, talent, resources and personal contacts to support the campaign. Ambassadors like Elma Horton, Alvin Whittaker, Carol Versey Cobb and their team of community volunteers who helped prepare the community Black Press Breakfast that raised over $15,000.

 “We could not have done any of this without the efforts of so many people in the community, especially the efforts of Rev. Carl Livingston, who introduced us to the non-profit lender,” said Bennett.

 According to Bennett, that introduction led to the restructuring of debt and some personal properties belonging to him and his wife in order to get a new loan.

 “I won’t go into too many details,” said Bennett. “But the bottom line is that we have two years to clean things up instead of 10 days.”

 Bennett said the original goal and mission of the “Save Our Voice” campaign was to raise a million dollars for a million reasons. While the financial goal was not reached, the objective of the campaign – to “Save Our Voice” – was accomplished.

 “Some naysayers snickered and made jokes about the amount, even though many of them were benefactors of the work we had done over the years,” said Bennett.

 “No, we did not raise the million dollars in cash or revenue,” continued Bennett. “But every success cannot be measured by the amount of cash collected by the campaign, resources are just as important.”

 “The total cash proceeds from the campaign were approximately $65,000,” added Bennett. “The real answer to the community is yes, we raised enough revenue and resources to reach our goal.”

 In a statement, Bennett wrote:

 “On behalf of Kris Bennett Broadcasting, its employees and business partners, I would like to thank all of the prayer warriors and supporters from the community who helped us get through this very difficult time. We know God was in the mix. What seemed like an impossible battle proved that all things are possible with God. We trusted, had faith, humbled ourselves and wrapped ourselves in the blood of “Jesus” and at the end of the day the campaign “a million dollars for a million reasons’ was a huge success.”

 “Our story is a living testimony that if you take care of your community, your community will take care of you. We will forever be grateful to this community at-large and our faith-based community in general, again, thank you community, and may God continue his blessings on all of us.”

 According to Bennett, the next phase of the campaign is a retention plan that incorporates maintaining a strong community marketing/advertising base and listener support initiatives.

 “We’ve stabilized the situation and now it’s time to move forward with the community by our side,” said Bennett. “I’d like to give a special thanks to Pastor Robert L. Manaway and the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church family for their generous collections throughout the campaign and for being the  ONLY continuous faith broadcast partner with us for over 30 years.”

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