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Fund-Raising Drive Kicks Into High Gear

A bit of zaniness interrupted the calm, cerebral drone of news early Monday on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” over KCLU-FM (88.3).

On the first day of a weeklong spring pledge drive at Ventura County’s public radio station, operated by California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, the challenge was to get 55 pledges in two hours. A donor was offering $1,000 if it could be done.

Station manager Mary Olson had been on the air all morning in a frenzy, begging commuters to pick up their cell phones and pledge money.

With half an hour and 27 callers to go at 8:30 a.m., KCLU news announcer Jeff Barry asked Olson, “Is it time to get nervous yet?”

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“No, we can do this!” Olson said, making more pleas in the seconds before the national feed took over.

This pledge drive is unlike any other for Olson--she is 6 months pregnant.

Sitting in a tiny booth with headphones around her neck, Olson let out a deep sigh. “I’m an eternal optimist, but we’re sweating it out a bit,” she said. “This is a stretch, 55 calls. It’s going to get frantic.”

With 10 minutes left and 11 calls to go, Olson got back on the air, clutching her stomach as her fetus kicked in reaction to all the excitement.

As she counted down the minutes, a final flurry of calls came in, four volunteers answering phones.

The deadline hit when the digital clock read 09:00:00 and “Morning Edition” went off the air--and KCLU had topped the 55 pledges needed.

“Woo!” Olson yelled as she ripped off her headphones and eased out of her chair, stretching her back. “Let’s see what we just did.”

KCLU gets the $1,000. In total, 61 pledges were called in, and the CPA firm of Tone, Walling and Kissinger in Westlake has to pay up.

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Donald Ashworth, a retired musician from Carpinteria, was the important 55th caller a couple of minutes before 9.

Olson said it was rewarding to get the call that from so far north, since KCLU only began serving Santa Barbara County last month, transmitting at 102.3 FM.

Olson said she is confident this year’s fund-raising goals will be met.

“I believe in the loyalty our listeners have to public radio,” she said. “But I like to ask people: ‘Put your money where your ears are.’ ”

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