KIOS, friend who does all the talking, turns 50

Erin Grace COLUMNIST

A dear friend, with me my whole life, has turned 50.

This friend is as reliable as rain, makes me laugh and think and can tell me hard things while also providing context and comfort. This friend keeps me in the loop, is a good influence on my kids and has decent taste when it comes to music.

This friend isn't perfect: does all the talking; is perennially short of cash. But I forgive both because, above all, this friend is always there for me, 24/7.

So, happy, happy birthday, KIOS!

Omaha's National Public Radio affiliate started inside Central High School in 1969 as an educational exercise. It was a way to train high school students in electronics and broadcasting. The Omaha Public Schools district was the FM station's license holder (91.5) then and remains so.

The radio station predates NPR, which did its first official broadcast in 1971. The Omaha station was one of NPR's charter members.

In in its lifetime, KIOS has doubled its transmission area, now covering a 60-mile radius. It moved out of Central and into what was then Tech High and is now the OPS headquarters at 3230 Burt St.

A nonprofit, KIOS is supported by public grants but is mainly funded locally, through memberships and underwriting. It has about a $1.2 million budget, employs 15 people, participates in public school education, offers a forum for local nonprofits and keeps me entertained and sane in the car and the kitchen.

Like any legacy news media outlet, KIOS has had to adapt to a changing technological, political and media landscape. But station manager Ken Dudzik said radio remains a strong, go-to medium, and KIOS remains a strong, go-to news source.

The station held an open house on Friday. And KIOS has made more tickets available ($25 apiece) for an upcoming, formerly sold-out fundraiser Wednesday, featuring longtime NPR host Susan Stamberg.

We're in church festival season, and this weekend St. Margaret Mary served up history in addition to the standard festival fare of raffles, games and beer.

The Catholic church at 6116 Dodge St. is turning 100, and to mark the milestone the parish is selling preorders of 100th anniversary books, which have been produced by parishioners and The World-Herald.

The book, which is scheduled for publication in November, can be preordered at www.smmomaha.org/news/467-100-year-st-margaret-mary-books.

The books wouldn't have happened without Nick Manhart, a lifelong parishioner, grade school graduate (1983) and father of five children who either have graduated from, are attending or will attend what was considered at one point the Archdiocese's "west Omaha" parish.

The story of St. Margaret Mary is also a story of its Dundee neighborhood, starting with the locale of the first Mass (second floor of what is now the eCreamery building at 50th and Underwood Streets), the first stand-alone school (south of that eCreamery building in what are now apartments) and early parishioners (including one with a famous Omaha name, Brandeis).

There's a back story to the story of how Manhart decided to write a book about St. Margaret Mary, which I'll tell later. A tease: It involves a stranger, a garage attic in Fremont and Manhart's self-described "mission of love and a mission of insanity." (St. Margaret Mary was my home church as a kid, and my mom was a longtime teacher there.)

Manhart is also leading tours of the church, which was built in 1942. He did so on Sunday and will have tours once a month through December. His hour long church tour will focus on how art and architecture are used in church design to emphasize understandings of the faith.

The letter came through the mail and was written in beautiful cursive.

"Dear Erin Grace," the writer began, before launching into a litany of complaints. She didn't appreciate a recent column in which I compared a downtown arts and crafts festival to church, and called my writing "sheer tripe," "beyond ridiculous," and — ouch — "not clever or humorous."

But to her credit, the writer is a World-Herald subscriber and took the time to write in longhand, which requires thinking, effort and some courage, as she signed her name.

This is a refreshing alternative to social media, which offers no thinking, little effort and practically zero courage. It's all too easy to pop off on Twitter or in Facebook comments.

This reader was not my only recent pen pal. I also heard from a woman who offered "a Grandma hug."

erin.grace@owh.com, 402-444-1136

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