Community Builders: KSAM’s MASH

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Postcards talks with Steve Everett, General Manager of KSAM radio station for 18 years. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day, bringing the latest in local news and events. The main priority of the team at KSAM is to be the first people there when something happens in the community. Their goal to be quickly involved in the community sets them apart, as they are always in the mix to help when needed and serve the surrounding area. Each year, the station partners with the Texas Army National Guard and the Good Shepherd Mission to host a toy drive called radio MASH, with the purpose of collecting unused toys, imperishable food, and supplies for those in need around the holidays.

When did the radio station begin doing this, and what does M.A.S.H. stand for?

This will be our eleventh year, so we started in 2006. MASH stands for Make A Smile Happen.

What was the idea behind this?

There were several groups of people collecting toys for needy families around the holiday times, so we thought radio MASH. A couple of us had worked radio MASH at another radio station in previous years, so we thought we’d try that in Huntsville.

Over how long a period are the toys collected?

We do it all in a two day period; we broadcast live for 24 hours a day. We set up in the parking lot that houses McKenzie’s and Walgreens, and that’s our location. We like it because people can drive in and drive out, drop it off, and never have to get out of their car. We work with the Texas Army National Guard; they come set up two huge army tents. One side we use for toys, stuffed animals, and things like that; and the other tent we use for our studio and grocery items.

So people can bring toys and nonperishable food items?

Yes. The Good Shepherd Mission gets all the canned goods. We also work with Rita B. Huff. We started that last year, as they have a need for animal supplies and food. People bring dog food, blankets, and things like that for them. We also partner with the Huntsville ISD social services department and work with Santa’s Helpers, the big overall group that does a lot of toy distribution. We work very closely with them, and also the SAAFE House and the YMCA.

So the donated goods go to multiple different organizations?

Right. All the nonperishable food goes to the Good Shepherd Mission, all the pet stuff goes to Rita B. Huff, and then all the toys will go to the other four agencies. They come and divide it up. People have to be qualified by signing up through the Good Shepherd or Santa’s Helpers, so not just anyone can walk up and say, “I want a free bicycle.” Every agency meets the criteria, and we do the process of collecting all of it.

Roughly how many toys are collected?

Well, we fill up those two huge army tents.

And what happens on the air during the event?

The nonprofits will come in while we’re broadcasting; we’ll have an hour where SAAFE House will talk about things they do in the community, HISD social services will talk about people they help, and that sort of thing. So, it’s not just out there collecting toys and food, we’re on the air live the whole time. It’s been a tremendous success, and each year has just gotten bigger and bigger. The Army National Guard guys are super; they come out and set it all up and bring us out a jeep to make it look like a MASH unit. We work closely with ATO, a fraternity at SHSU. They get their community service credits, and we’ve had a relationship with them for 10 years. They help with all our events, and they’re out there with us the whole time. Soldiers from the National Guard help unload cars.

It sounds like a pretty big deal that takes a lot of people.

It does take a lot of people to put it on, and it’s tremendous. Some people will just walk up and say, “Here’s a check for $1,000,” or “Here’s a check for $500.”

Where does that donated money go?

We take all the money and divide it equally among those organizations. KSAM doesn’t keep any of the money; it’s all distributed to those folks.

How many years have you worked for KSAM, and what do you do on a daily basis?

Oh, I’ve been here 18 years. I make sure everything runs smoothly. I always said if I wasn’t in the radio business, I’d be a chamber of commerce guy, ‘cause I’m kind of a rah-rah guy. In the community, that’s my job—to make sure our forefront at KSAM is to be involved in the community. “We don’t just talk about the community; we’re a part of it.”

Aside from MASH, what else does KSAM do in the community year-round?

Our other big event is Bearkat Mania that we host at Sam Houston State University. It’s usually the second or third week of the fall semester, and it’s the only time that businesses are allowed to come on campus. We’ve done it for 38 or 39 years. We hand out 10,000 to 15,000 coupon books, and we’ll have 60-70 vendors set up. That’s been a huge thing for the radio station, and of course we’re the flagship station for the Bearkat Sports Network, and we do Huntsville High School sports.”

What do you want the community to know about radio MASH?

It’s just a super time, and we appreciate the community that comes and supports it. There are some interesting stories. There was a grandmother who came the second or third year, and we had all these bicycles; she brought another bicycle and said ‘This is for my granddaughter, she would have been 7 years-old this Christmas.” Since her granddaughter passed away, every year she brings a bicycle in memory of her granddaughter. Also, the Good Shepherd Mission is running low on food this holiday season from feeding some of the people who have been displaced by Hurricane Harvey. We’re hoping that this will provide relief, and we are so appreciative of them.

How does KSAM engage the community with this event other than on the radio?

We send out mailers, and we talk to different civic clubs and different groups. We try to get clubs and organizations, sororities and fraternities to get involved. The way people open their hearts and pocketbooks is amazing. Little kids bring their piggybanks to make sure someone else has a good Christmas. Grandmothers will come in and give money or bags of toys. This year, the dates are November 29th and 30th. We always do it the Wednesday and Thursday before the Christmas parade.

Are there any other events KSAM holds throughout the year?

We do a lot with the fair and rodeo. We work closely with the fair queen contestants and put them on the air and interview them. We broadcast live out there the opening weekend of the fair. We’re part of the buyer’s group that buys animals at the livestock sale. During the rodeo portion of it, we ride the Dodge pickup and throw out koozies and t-shirts. Last year, a few Texas artists came out and did acoustic sets in our booth so people could come listen to music before going to the rodeo. Something we just started is our GROJ Sale, and that stands for Get Rid of Junk. We did that for the first time this past July at the fairgrounds, and it was bigger than we expected. Our next community-wide garage sale is going to be February 3rd, 2018, hosted by KSAM and 104.9 The Hits.

KSAM will be hosting the annual radio MASH on November 29th and 30th in the parking lot next to Walgreens and McKenzie’s BBQ. This is a community that always comes together to provide for those in need. Consider making a donation, whether it be canned goods, blankets, pet food, toys, or a monetary donation. KSAM would love your support and involvement with this annual event. Come experience the joy of helping others this holiday season in Huntsville at radio MASH.

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