(By Deborah Parenti) Wildfires. Hurricanes. Floods. Tornadoes. Over the past year, we’ve all listened to and read the headlines and the stories. Indeed, it seems that 2018 has brought more than its fair share of disasters to communities across the country.
Especially heartbreaking are the fires still burning in California that have claimed so many lives and caused the loss for many of every precious possession and cherished memento.
Forget replaceable items like furniture and clothing. Imagine every photograph, a child’s scribbled “I love you,” or the final recording of your mother’s voice. Not just damaged or tattered. Incinerated. Ashes. Gone forever.
The pain and heartbreak are hard to imagine. Even worse, of course, is the incomprehensible agony of those whose loved ones won’t be celebrating around the Thanksgiving table this week.
It is times like these that we turn to one another for comfort and support.
At the head of the line are always the first responders. We owe them more gratitude and thanks than mere words can express. Behind them, however, is a second set of “responders” who have also been playing a vital, and often life-saving, role in reassuring and restoring some sense of normalcy to those dealing with the tragedies that have descended around them.
They are broadcasters, both radio and television, who often risk their lives reporting, not just a breaking story, but in keeping listeners aware and informed of these catastrophic events as they unfold. They are the ones who are often the first to advise which bridge is out, where the uncontrolled fires are raging, what counties are in the eye of the storm, and most important, where to go and which organizations to turn to for help in those situations. Not to mention, how to find and access them. And at times, provide an on-air shoulder on which to cry.
And they open their hearts and give of their resources as well. It would be impossible to track the hours, time, and expenses absorbed by stations and station personnel across the country when their communities find themselves dealing with sudden crises such as fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods.
They do it because they are citizens of the towns and cities on which they report just as much as they are broadcast professionals. And the devastation felt by their communities is personal. At times, up close and really personal. Their families live and work in these communities, too. And they are just as likely to suffer losses and destruction to their homes, properties, and loved ones as those in their audience.
Broadcasters are, however, also part of another “community.” The community of broadcasters. And when one broadcaster suffers, the community of broadcasters suffers with them and comes together to help and support the ones in need.
It’s called the Broadcasters Foundation and enough can’t be said about their work and the lives they have impacted. For over 65 years, the foundation has been, symbolically, at the “head” of the broadcasters’ family table. Each year, countless dollars in grants and emergency aid is given to broadcasters, by broadcasters, all thanks to the organized efforts of the foundation.
This year, it is projected that almost $1.3 million in grants will be distributed, a 21% increase over 2017.
Of that amount, close to $300,000 will be emergency grants to aid victims of Hurricanes Maria, Florence, and Michael, as well as the wildfires in California. That’s the kind of support the foundation provides in times of crisis, in addition to being a bridge for those faced with sudden medical or emergency situations. When the need is there, the Broadcasters’ Foundation is ready assist with compassion and care.
Most of us have a lot to be thankful for this year. If you are counting your blessings with loved ones around your Thanksgiving table this year, you might want to add thanks for being part of an industry that cares about its community.
If you know of a broadcaster who might need and qualify for help from the Broadcasters Foundation, please encourage them to contact the foundation. And if you are one of the more fortunate, your support of the organization would be greatly appreciated.
Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at [email protected]