Turkeythons and holiday donor roundups

By Kathy Canavancharlie maxx and john hanson

After four years of broadcasting from Delaware parking lots during 94.7 WDSD’s Operation Christmas Wish, Sky Phillips has heard it all.

“You’d be surprised. When an 8-year-old is really needy and you ask him what he wants for Christmas, it’s ‘I’d like some shoes, or I need a coat,’” Phillips said. “They’re not asking for PlayStation 4s.”

Media campaigns help nonprofits
help others during the holidays. Here’s
a sampling:

  •  Operation Christmas Wish raised $66,360 for needy children in Delaware schools last year.
  • The Turkey Roundup that 94.7 WDSD and 92.9 MIX-FM staged for the Food Bank of Delaware last month wrangled 2,800 turkeys and $33,545.73 in cash.
  • The totals for the Turkeython that 99.5 WJBR staged for the Ministry of Caring aren’t in yet, but last year’s event helped feed 800 families.
  • 1150 AM WDEL’s Feed a Friend campaign raised more than $11,000 for five area food programs in one day last year. The on-air campaign will be repeated Thursday. Neither snow nor rain deters the media stars who donate their time.

Charlie Maxx, on-air personality for WJBR, said she doesn’t think she’s ever been as cold as she was at the 2013 Turkeython in the parking lot of the Fairfax Acme. “We started out before 6 a.m., before the sun came up, and it was just ridiculously cold. We had hand warmers in our shoes. Hot coffee went cold in minutes,” Maxx said.

“The way I look at it is, this is a momentary discomfort for me; however, the people we’re collecting for are living in discomfort all year long. It’s the uncomfortableness of not being able to support your family and the discomfort of having to ask for assistance. That’s never easy for anybody. Five hours of freezing my butt off is nothing compared to what these people have to put up with all year long.

“The fact that I can help somebody have an enjoyable holiday is not only my pleasure, but I also feel it’s my obligation to go out and help,” Maxx said.

On Thanksgiving Day, WDEL personalities asked listeners to pledge to buy one case of food to help five local food programs—Emmanuel Dining Room, the Newark Area Welfare Committee, St. Paul’s Catholic Church Outreach Center, Sunday Breakfast Mission, and the YWCA of Delaware.

WDEL splits the money five ways and brings representatives of the feeding programs for a before-hours shopping trip to Costco. Costco brings in extra staff and provides extra funds for each group, said Mike Reath, WDEL’s vice president and general manager.

“These folks tell us the need is getting worse every year. There are Delawareans who are going hungry,” Reath said. “This is one of our efforts to help them and help these organizations who do the real yeoman’s work all year long.”

The media programs are a boon to nonprofits because they supply food or clothes that would otherwise have to be purchased, and they publicize the nonprofit.

Kim Turner, spokesperson for the Food Bank, said the Turkey Round Up buoys the nonprofit’s bottom line and helps the 550 organizations that buy low-cost food or get free food from the Food Bank. “Whenever the media promotes the Food Bank, it’s a great opportunity for us to increase awareness of what we do. Somebody might not be familiar with the Food Bank of Delaware, so it’s a good way for us to promote our message.”

The Turkey Round Up is always successful: “Everybody is just very generous, and they want to help. You think about Thanksgiving, and you think of a turkey, and you don’t want anyone to go without,” Turner said.

Mark Poletunow, deputy director of the Ministry of Caring, said WDEL’s Friends in Need and WJBR’s Turkeython help the ministry fill Christmas and Thanksgiving baskets, and a special print insert in Delaware Today makes people more aware of the ministry’s work. “We believe that putting that in Delaware Today right before the holidays spurs people to give at the holidays and at the end of the year,” he said.

Nonprofits that have media links are grateful, and nonprofits that don’t often wish they did.

When Carl Colantuono got his new job as director of development at the Salvation Army Delaware in June, he sent an email blast to get the press involved. Half of it went nowhere. The emails were old.

He realized press relations had not been a priority in the past: “It’s a heads-down organization trying to get the job done, and they’ve been doing a lot of things right, but they’ve just recently decided that doing media out  of Philadelphia isn’t working.”

Colantuono said the Army has wonderful supporters throughout the state without a media campaign, but  he realizes the value of a campaign.  The Army will have a media strategy  for 2015, he said.

Bill Perkins, executive director of Friendship House, said it costs $110,000 a month to keep the nonprofit going, and up to 40 percent of its annual giving comes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Friendship House has no media campaign, but sends one appeal letter to 3,800 core supporters each year, has community groups that collect needed items, and sponsors an Alternative Christmas Campaign, with donors making donations in honor of friends or family.

“Our ministries are also volunteer-intensive, employing almost 2,000 volunteers a year,” Perkins said. “They are our true media outlet, sharing their experiences with their family, friends and coworkers.”

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