(By Deborah Parenti) The events unfolding in Houston have been horrible to watch. So many people have been affected by Harvey and their lives will be altered for many years. For broadcasters affected by the storm, you should know there’s help out there. Some years ago, tragedy struck my family when my brother died. Life stopped at that moment for us, even as it continued outside our shattered world.
I had been in the middle of planning our stations’ grand opening. Among the many heartfelt callers in the days after my brother’s death was Gordon Hastings, then head of Katz. Expressing his sympathy, he offered to handle all the arrangements for Pete Rose to appear at the grand opening. He told me, “You have enough on your plate. We will take care of this.”
It was a kindness I never forgot.
Ten years later, Eric Rhoads approached me about launching the Hispanic Radio Conference. By that time, Gordon had moved on to the Broadcasters Foundation,
which also served as my introduction to the organization and its work. Reading the stories about how, in time of need, the foundation was there to assist fellow
broadcast professionals was inspiring, so when I received payment for the conference, I made my first donation to the Broadcasters Foundation.
In my note to Gordon, I explained that while my need had not been financial,
during difficult days, broadcasters had been there for me. I wanted to pay it forward.
And that’s how it is with life. Along with wonderful moments, bad things happen, often without warning. Some are permanently life-altering and catastrophic, such as a cancer diagnosis or a major accident.
Others can be of a more immediate and short-term nature. A devastating fire or flood, a tornado or major medical matter; the chance of any of these happening to us is probably greater than being struck by a car or diagnosed with a terminal disease.
While many know about the monthly aid provided by the Broadcasters Foundation to broadcasters with ongoing needs, not everyone is aware of the safety net they provide in emergency situations, such as Houston. They’re called emergency grants — one-time assistance of $1,000, designed for fast approval so immediate needs can be quickly met.
Over the years, the Broadcasters Foundation has assisted broadcasters with monthly and emergency aid in more than 30 states and contributed millions of dollars in aid to more than 1,000 broadcasters and their families.
For example, when Louisiana was struck with floods last year, the foundation helped more than 90 broadcasters to the tune of over $90,000. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the foundation awarded emergency grants to 15 broadcasters, and when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it disbursed $250,000 in emergency grants to 250 broadcasters.
The foundation also helped broadcasters who were affected by the Joplin, MO tornadoes in 2011, and by Hurricane Matthew in North and South Carolina last
Behind these numbers are real people: account executives, digital directors, music and programming directors, on-air personalities, traffic and sales managers, and more.
Simply put, the person sitting down the hall, in the studio, or in the cubicle next to yours could be tomorrow’s recipient. Because as long as they have worked in the industry and have a qualifying need, the Broadcasters Foundation is there for them, and for everyone in radio and television.
That includes an engineer in Ohio. When a city water main broke and poured 11 million gallons of water onto his street, it destroyed his furnace, water heater, washer and dryer, along with his home production studio, and displaced the family for a week. With savings depleted, he was able to turn to the Broadcasters Foundation for an emergency grant.
And the foundation was there for a production director in Missouri, too. When a flood caused $20,000 worth of damage to his home, insurance covered most of the cost, but there was still a deductible that was more than he could manage.
Real people — real stories — real help. Over the past 18 years, the Broadcasters Foundation has distributed $8.5 million to broadcasters in need, not only in long-term situations but “in case of emergency.”
When I spoke to the foundation about this piece, they asked me not to ask you for a donation. Broadcasters Foundation Chairman Dan Mason and President Jim Thompson want the focus on making sure that everyone in radio and television is aware of where to turn for help in time of need. You can help by spreading the word and making sure everyone on your staff knows about the work of the Broadcasters Foundation. But since this is my column, I will also take the liberty of adding that if you can send a donation, you’ll be helping your “family.” And right now, our family in Texas affected by Harvey need our help and support. Learn more about the Broadcasters Foundation, its mission, and how to donate HERE.
Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at [email protected]