WVCR-FM hit the airwaves in 1960 as a way to serve the campus of Siena College in Loudonville with religious programming, music and communication.

"It's really gone crazy" since then, said Darrin Scott Kibbey, general manager of the station, 88.3 The Saint (www.wvcr.com).

It still serves students, giving them an outlet for expression and opportunities to develop communication skills, use radio equipment and learn about the broadcasting industry. It also serves the Capital Region with a diverse musical format, public service announcements, plugs for charitable events and cultural, religious and academic programming. The internet has allowed ethnic shows like the Polka Spotlight (Sundays, 9 a.m.-noon) and Proud to Be Irish (Sundays, noon-3 p.m.) to reach around the world.

The Saint runs no commercials and does not pay the majority of its staff.

"The fifth or sixth thing I'm concerned about is financial," Mr. Kibbey said. "The station is here to work with the students [and] pursue working with non-profits. Most stations shun them. We want to be in that environment [because] there are so many people in need."

Making (air)waves
The station raises more than $400,000 annually for charities by hosting events, including fundraising walks for the Alzheimer's Association, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Wildwood Programs for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, the Capital District YMCA and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Representatives from non-profits, fire stations and ambulance companies often talk on-air about upcoming fundraisers.

Shows such as Saint Stories (Saturdays, 10-10:30 a.m.) and Change Makers (Saturday, 10:30-11 a.m.), hosted respectively by an alumnus and Siena students serving as AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, focus on the good people do. The Capitol Pressroom (weekdays, 5-6 p.m.), a public radio newsmagazine rebroadcast by WVCR, features analysis from political beat reporters and interviews with legislators.

"Siena's radio station is a unique community resource," said William Helmer of St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Delmar, a lawyer and volunteer co-host of two shows. "They serve the community in a way that commercial stations don't [and] it's a great venue for the volunteer spirit to come out."

One of Mr. Helmer's shows, the Capital Green Scene (Saturdays, 11-11:30 a.m.), won a public interest award. His other show is Voices of Catholic Radio, which features sacred music on Sunday mornings.

Catholic connection
"It's an opportunity to serve the Lord and the Lord's people," Mr. Helmer. "The greatest achievements in the Roman Catholic tradition are its architecture and its music.

"We have dedicated listeners," he continued. "We don't just do the music; we talk about issues in the Church and even try to do some instruction. You'll definitely learn something about the Catholic Church every week."

The station broadcasts a "Saint of the Day" feature six times a day with commentary by Rev. Kevin Mullen, OFM, Siena's president, and special programs tied to liturgical seasons featuring Father Mullen, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard and Franciscan friars. The Franciscan tradition of service to others inspires students to go on mission trips and work at homeless shelters and charter schools, which The Saint then highlights, Mr. Kibbey noted.

Students can do lab work or internships at the station; some just hang out there. Even for students who don't pursue a broadcasting career, working with The Saint helps prepare them for public speaking, corresponding with media and careers in fields like business and law.

College and community
Two dozen students are involved with scriptwriting, securing underwriting support, recording and broadcasting. They can host shows with little oversight, as long as they don't proselytize politics, violate obscenity rules or accept benefits for mentioning particular events or products on-air.

Up to 35 community volunteers serve as hosts, producers and more. Mr. Kibbey, a part-time director and a subcontracted marketing director are the only paid staff.

Siena provides a studio, but an annual radio-thon raises about 10 percent of the station's operating budget, which was about $75,000 last year. The 35,000-watt station transmits from Thacher State Park in Voorheesville and reaches a 70-mile diameter around the region.

Said Mr. Helmer: "The station really captures the life of the Christian community in the Diocese of Albany and gives a voice to that community in all of its diversity. It's one of the best stations in the area."