The board of directors and station engineer for Harpswell’s community radio station, WHPW 93.7 FM, stand outside the station’s electronics hub at 8 Community Drive, next to Harpswell Community Television, on June 16. From left, Glenn Vose, vice president; Daniel Moore, secretary; Howard Yanik, station engineer; Betsy Saunders, treasurer; and John Halpin, president. (Evan Houk photo)

Harpswell’s free-form community radio station, WHPW 97.3 FM, is in the midst of a fundraising push to enable worldwide access to its content online, secure its first studio broadcast space, and upgrade its technical equipment.

John Halpin, president of the station’s board of directors and volunteer program manager, says he has a goal of raising $10,000 by Oct. 1.

“In the scheme of budgets, it doesn’t sound like all that much, but this is a real nickel-and-dime operation,” Halpin said during an interview with the board of directors and volunteer station engineer on June 16. “We don’t have any major funding to speak of.”

The station will be broadcasting live and raising funds at the Harpswell Garden Club’s Fall Fest at Centennial Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16.

Having a studio and being able to stream online will open up many more possibilities for contributors, as well as listeners and underwriters, as any person, business or other organization in the world could underwrite the station or submit content and be able to listen to it anywhere there is internet access, said Daniel Moore, secretary of the board of directors.

“You can be almost anywhere in the world, sharing your passions for art, music, interviewing people, almost anything,” Moore said. “And there’s no corporate governance saying, ‘No dice.'”

Once WHPW can stream online, it will be able to build an audio archive of its shows and music that can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Currently there are three original programs airing from local contributors: “Feezable Tracks,” “Moist Fluids,” and “Round the World with Cracklin’ Jane.” The shows are nationally syndicated through WHPW’s affiliation with the Pacifica Network, founded in 1949 to promote listener-sponsored community radio and noncommercial free media. The station also broadcasts Harpswell Select Board meetings and airs Elijah Kellogg Church’s Sunday services.

“Feezable Tracks” plays an array of music, including soul, classic rock, reggae and electronica, and its online description promises that “you’re bound to hear something you’ve never heard before.”

This promise could well apply to WHPW as a whole. As an affiliate of the Pacifica Network, the station has access to grassroots content produced by more than 200 affiliates around the world that cannot be heard anywhere else in the area.

The Harpswell community radio station is also an affiliate of Native Voice One, a Native American radio network, which has “some pretty interesting cultural and music programming,” Halpin said. On Thursdays, nearly the entire broadcast day is filled with Native American or First Nation-produced programming, music, DJs, cultural information and news.

“That’s one of the ways that we provide diversity,” Halpin said. “We want to make it interesting and different. Also, we want to have more local content.”

Anyone can submit content for WHPW to air — whether it be a podcast, a playlist, or a livestream of an event like a graduation, concert or family reunion. The creation of the content is the sole responsibility of the contributor or underwriter.

Howard Yanik, station engineer for WHPW, explains the workings of the electronics hub. Yanik maintains the station’s equipment, ensures the transmitter and antenna are functioning properly, and helps broadcast Sunday services for Elijah Kellogg Church. (Evan Houk photo)

The board members, who are all volunteers, share a passion for community radio. They see the community radio station as a counterpoint to the corporate stations that saturate the airwaves.

“There’s none of the corporate stuff. This is not a politically aligned station. So if somebody has views that they want to get out there on the air, so be it. You just have to help do the work,” Moore said with a laugh.

The only guidelines, essentially, are that the station will not broadcast anything that is offensive, discriminatory, or slanderous, Halpin said.

More volunteers are needed and can be trained in whatever aspect of radio station work they are interested in, Moore said.

WHPW is powered completely by volunteers and donations from individuals and businesses or other organizations, which can show support by underwriting the station. The station does not receive taxpayer funds.

There is plenty of room for more underwriters, and at a cost of about $150 for between 40 and 50 on-air announcements, it’s “pretty inexpensive,” Halpin said.

WHPW currently transmits its 97.3 FM frequency at a power of 26 watts, compared to 100,000 watts for Maine Public Radio, Halpin said.

Despite the relatively low power of the station’s transmitter, through the dedicated work of volunteers like station engineer Howard Yanik, its range reaches to Brunswick, Bath and Freeport.

WHPW is not alone in Maine as a grassroots, hyperlocal station, although community radio stations used to be more common, Halpin said. Others include East Orland-based WERU, HooSkow Radio in Skowhegan, Belfast Community Radio and WRFR in Rockland.

“Low-power FM stations have replaced those local stations that used to be ubiquitous back in the 1950s and 1960s, before they started getting bought up by these corporate chains,” Halpin said.

WHPW was founded in 2013 by Halpin, Vice President Glenn Vose, and Treasurer Betsy Saunders as “a public-access, low-power FM educational, community radio station in Harpswell,” according to its website. One of the original goals was to provide a hyperlocal radio station that would be accessible to the local population, especially in the case of severe weather alerts, when information has to get out fast to those who need it.

“When we started this, our primary purpose was to provide a broadcast in times of emergency,” Halpin said. “Small, local radio stations can be very instrumental in getting information out when there’s some sort of local crisis, could be a hurricane or a flood.”

Another goal was simply to broadcast music that isn’t heard anywhere else.

“We just wanted to have a station that had music that nobody else was playing,” Saunders said.

Anyone interested in submitting content to be broadcast can simply fill out the contact form on the station’s website or email

With the possibility of online streaming, a permanent studio space, and technical upgrades on the horizon, the excitement is palpable among the volunteers at WHPW as the station looks to broaden its reach.

To donate, go to or mail a check to Harpswell Radio Project, 235 Long Point Road, Harpswell, ME 04079. Supporters can make one-time donations or contribute on a recurring basis, Halpin said.

Evan Houk is a freelance journalist and a former reporter for The Lincoln County News and the (Waterville) Morning Sentinel. He lives in Damariscotta.