A New Season
In 2018, Mark Zimmerman stopped praying for an opportunity to return to radio.
“I was driving a bus for Geauga County Transit, and I was 100% okay with that.” Mark said, “If the Lord wanted me back in radio, I trusted that I’d be back.”
When the news came of WKJA’s purchase by Christian Healthcare Ministries later that year, Zimmerman noted it, but did nothing else about it.
“My prayer to the Lord stood.” He said, “If somebody wanted me, I trusted the Lord would send them my way.”
At the end of March 2019, Mark’s phone rang.
By July, Mark Zimmerman and WKJA General Manager Mark Channon were standing in the remains of a middle school choir room, watching the birth of a radio station.
As the months rolled by, that choir room was transformed into a state-of-the-art radio station. And as exciting as the technology was, there was one thing Mark Zimmerman was looking forward to as the sign-on date of February 14, 2020, approached:
“Being out in the community.” Zimmerman said. “Shaking hands with the listeners. Doing remote broadcasts. Getting to know our 9-county broadcast area.”
And then, less than a month after the station hit the air… a Covid lockdown.
“Gabe and I had just started to get to know each other,” Mark said, “and all of a sudden, we now had a choice: whine and moan about the pandemic, or attempt to provide Godly encouragement and joy in the midst of a time none of us had ever seen before.”
There were days during the lockdown that Mark and Gabe were the only two people in a building that usually saw almost 200 Christian Healthcare Ministries employees at work on any given day.
“It was unsettling, to say the least.” Zimmerman said.
But, leaning on God’s Word, the small Heartfelt Radio team leaned on each other as well – talking about the “little victories” they saw – at the grocery store, tipping big for takeout, even in Facebook live church services.
“Everyone was going through the same thing.” Mark said. “We just wanted to make sure everyone knew that we were all in the same boat… and that the Lord was not surprised. He was there – just as He always had been.
By the final quarter of 2021, Mark and the Heartfelt team finally made it into the community, and even though fist-bumps had replaced handshakes and hugs, the joy of “Christian community” was back.
“We’re a local radio station.” Zimmerman said. “We don’t need to worry about the needs of a network. We’re serving the Church in every small town, village, and city in this region. Getting back to what radio once was for me – the local relationships – is what I’m truly looking forward to now.”
Mark Zimmerman’s broadcast life started at WUAB-TV in Cleveland (1980-1986). Then came a career in advertising (1987-1998) in which he won local, regional, national, and international awards as a writer, producer, and creative director. From 1993-2015, Mark was heard as the creator of The Children’s Radio Funhouse, and later the host of WCRF’s morning program. He lives with his wife Wendy in Northeast Ohio. They have 3 adult daughters, 2 terrific sons-in-law, and 2 grandchildren.