New WEFT manager a long-time volunteer
CHAMPAIGN — Before Lori Serb moved to Urbana, one of her two sisters who lived there would send her tapes of the WEFT Radio program "Womyn Making Waves." Through it, Serb was introduced to women artists she'd never heard of before.
She also was impressed that WEFT aired "This Way Out," a program produced in Los Angeles and dedicated to global LGBT issues.
So soon after settling here in 1998, Serb found her way to WEFT and began to volunteer at the downtown Champaign community radio station. She remained a volunteer over the years and last week became WEFT's station manager, the only full-time paid position at the station at 113 N. Market St.
"It's kind of a dream job, when you take the economics out," Serb said Tuesday. "It's a little scary because we're not as financially stable as I'd like us to be."
Serb, 39, though, hopes to change that by seeking grant money from other sources beyond the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Illinois Arts Council, historically the main sources for WEFT since it first went on the air in 1981.
She also plans to apply for grants in partnership with other local non-profit agencies here.
Seventeen people from throughout the country applied for the station manager job. Serb succeeds Dave Witzany, who has been interim station manager since February 2013, when long-time manager Mick Woolf was fired by the board of directors. Witzany did not apply for the job.
"Lori's going to be really great," he said. "She comes in already knowing so many of the day-to-day necessities of this station."
WEFT air-shifter Bruce Zimmerman praised her dedication; he has noticed Serb always is among the first to volunteer for tasks, including helping to install an air conditioner at the station's transmitter tower last summer.
"That's the way a co-op works," he said. "She's also not as old as most of us here. Seriously, we need to broaden our demographics."
One of Serb's plans for that is to step up WEFT's presence in the community. WEFT had an information booth at the recent Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival in Champaign and will have one at the Champaign Park District's new Mariposa Music Festival on Saturday.
Serb also wants to make WEFT a hub for information about "non-corporate efforts that enrich the community."
And she wants to bring in new volunteers with new ideas and build on the creativity and strengths of the 85 volunteers now on board.
"I want this to be a place where people feel they're contributing to a larger legacy of our archives. It's like a library. It is a library," she said of WEFT's big collection of CDs and vinyl.
One big challenge, of course, will be raising money; the station's annual budget is $135,000. Much of it comes from listeners, as well as underwriters.
Serb plans to extend the fall pledge drive by a few days; it will kick off with WEFTFest on Sept. 7 outside the station and at Mike N Molly's next door.
At WEFT, Serb will continue to host her weekly show, "Dog is My Co-Pilot," from 6 to 9 a.m. Fridays. Offering music, commentary and information, it's dedicated to her late dog, Arlo, a black Lab-Rottweiler mix.
Before taking the station manager job, Serb worked for the Graduate Employees' Organization at the University of Illinois, the Campaign for Better Health Care and the 85% Coalition, which fought for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
For a year, while working for the GEO, she managed (as a volunteer) the low-power FM station WRFU in Urbana.