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Rhonda Cook’s eyes welled up with tears when she recounted the story of a woman who called her one day at the small radio station she runs out of Long Pond Baptist Church.
The woman had recently lost a loved one and was calling Cook to praise her for the work she does.
“The statement she made to me was, ‘ I couldn’t have got through the last two years had it not been for this station,’ ” Cook said. “And that’s when you know what you’re doing is making a difference.”
The Southern Gospel magazine Singing News recently recognized that difference by presenting Cook with a Golden Mic Award, given to broadcasters who show dedication to Southern Gospel music, church work and their communities.
“I couldn’t believe it, actually,” she said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. To be honored by the Singing News … everybody in the industry looks at the Singing News and knows what it is.”
Cook said she’s been working at the station, WTBH 91.5 FM, since 1989.
The station was started by her father, and founding pastor of the church, Ron Cason, in 1987 and became a charting station in 1996.
“He was just real burdened for someone to start a Christian radio station,” she said. “We’re the only Southern Gospel radio station in the area.”
Cook said the station mostly broadcasts to Levy, Gilchrist and Dixie counties but can sometimes be picked up in areas of Alachua, Citrus and Marion counties.
Throughout the years, Cook said, she’s gradually taken on more responsibilities at the station, including hosting a one-hour request show and doing on-air interviews with gospel artists.
In 2005, after her father passed away, she took over the role as station manager, having to learn about production work and keeping the station compliant with FCC standards.
“I don’t know how many people asked, ‘What’s going to happen to the station?’ ” she said. “But there was no doubt in my mind I had to continue what my dad started.”
The station also airs the church’s Sunday and Wednesday night services, something Cook said enables people who, for one reason or another, can’t make it to church to be a part of what’s going on.
She said she’s encouraged by the people she’s able to reach out to and plans to continue doing it for as long as she can.
“To this day it’s the only job I’ve had that I don’t mind getting up every morning and going to.”