On Tuesday, December 14, I got a wild idea during the middle of The Morning Reaction to try and get a few listeners to bring some coats to the radio station on Friday (12/17) as part of an impromptu-open-house to coincide with the appearance of local singer Victoria Vox.
I honestly thought I’d get a handful of listeners to stop by on Friday, drink some Royal Farms coffee with me (Glenn doesn’t drink coffee…) and drop off a coat or two. I hoped to get 25 coats. My initial plan was to take those coats downtown, walk around the Inner Harbor sometime this week, and hand out the coats to homeless men and women who were forced to brave the winter elements. It was a lark, almost. Get a few coats, take them downtown, and help a few folks who needed some warm clothing.
We got some coats.
232 to be exact.
And earlier today, Glenn Clark, Rex Snider and I – with timely assistance from our interns who helped us load all of them up – ventured downtown to an amazing facility called Helping Up Mission (HUM) and met some men who are facing the challenge of a lifetime.
But the story isn’t about WNST putting together a “coat drive”. We didn’t really do anything except store and then deliver the coats, jackets, shirts, gloves, hats and scarves you all dropped off at the radio station over the last three days.
The story is about you — our WNST community — and the story is about the great work they’re doing at HUM…and the story is about the impact your generosity had on a lot of men today.
As Glenn and I pulled out after the 2nd run this afternoon (we had so much stuff we had to get a van — donated for the day our friend Joe Enoch…and Rex went on run #1 before returning to do his 2-6pm show), I remarked to him that the only “negative” of the day is that those of you who dropped off winter clothing for today’s distribution at HUM couldn’t go to the facility with us.
Had you gone downtown with us today, you would have seen some things that not only would make you appreciate your good fortune even more, but it would also remind you that men and women who are down on their luck aren’t bad people — in some cases, they’re just unfortunate people who finally had to hit rock bottom before they could seek the help they need for recovery.
And had you gone downtown today, and if you could have seen the looks on their faces as the men looked at the jackets and winter clothing that fit their need, you would have realized at that point that we all tend to take for granted those things that are part of our daily life and routine.
Of all the moments, the one that stood out to me the most was this one: An African American male who looked to me to be in his mid 40′s came into the room and started looking through the pile of clothing. Each man was allowed ONE item, since there are literally hundreds of men who utilize the HUM facility. The man went over to a table that had children’s clothing and picked out a light blue winter coat that looked to be the size roughly fitting a 6-8 year old child. As he walked out the door, a staff member greeted him with a smile and the man said, “My little girl is gonna get this for Christmas.”
I had to turn away from Glenn for just a moment while I gulped hard and gathered myself.
Not only was this man passing on a piece of clothing for himself, he had found a jacket that would bring him and his daughter joy over the weekend when families are allowed to visit the facility for the men who are in the program at HUM.
I can only imagine the pride he’ll feel on Saturday or Sunday when he shows his little girl the jacket he’s giving her for Christmas.
And the fact that this man’s little girl might hug him and tell him she misses him and that she loves him as she clutches the coat YOU – one of you in our community – parted with for our endeavor was nearly too much for me to handle standing there with Glenn today.
That’s ONE story out of about 20 or so I could tell as I saw men trying on coats, ribbing each other about how it looked and laughing at one another as they playfully battled over a fleece blanket or a pair of gloves.
The work those men are doing at HUM — and the entire facility is run by men IN the program there — is simply amazing. The place was spotless because those men keep it clean. The food is cooked and served by men housed in the facility. The counseling is done by men who completed the program, got their education, and returned to help men who are fighting the same demons they fought years ago. Nearly every single time we were introduced to another man on Tuesday, it was accompanied by “he was in the program 3 years ago…” or “he’s been here for two months now and he’s doing great”. The clothes YOU provided to those men will be washed downstairs in the laundry room by men who live there and are part of the program. There’s a maintenance shop. Run by guys in the program. Everything about HUM is special because the men who are there to change their lives are starting that change by helping one another in some fashion.
The food isn’t going to cook itself at HUM. The clothes don’t get clean by osmosis. And the books in the library upstairs don’t get put away by elves.
Those men aren’t looking for free handouts. They’re IN need of help, yes, but they’re more than willing to give something back to get something.
I can’t begin to tell all of you who donated clothing for this effort how important you are to the community you live in. You have no idea what impact you made on those men today, but I saw it – and so did Glenn – with my own two eyes. I felt it with every handshake. Men walked in and said, “Thanks for doing this for us” and they really meant it.
I only wish you could have been there to see it and feel it for yourselves.
I hope what I just wrote gives you a small glimpse of the good tidings you shared with the men of HUM during this holiday season.
WNST has plenty of critics.
We’re criticized for our signal strength.
We’re criticized for our “renegade style”…sometimes unfairly, I might add.
We’re criticized because the radio ratings apparently indicate “no one listens”.
We’re criticized because we’re “too hard on the baseball team”.
We’re not dumb…we know there are people “out there” who root against us.
But I can say this today, without question and without debate and without having to worry about any rebuttal from a critic.
No other media entity in Baltimore has people with the hearts of gold that you all – WNST listeners and WNST.net readers – possess.
On Monday of this week, a listener in Catonsville (Skip) called Glenn off the air at 7:45 am and said, “I have three great coats to donate but I don’t have a way to get to the station. If you can have someone pick them up from me in Catonsville, I’ll gladly give them to you.” We made an over-the-air plea for anyone who could meet up with Skip and pick up the coats. I expected someone from the west side of town might be able to arrange a meet-and-greet and get the coats to us in Towson. What happened was extraordinary. Dave in Carney called Glenn, got Skip’s number, hopped in his car, drove all the way around the Beltway at 8:30 in the morning, got to Catonsville, picked up the coats and dropped them off before the show ended.
Hearts of gold. All of you.
Back in October, you all raised nearly $5,000 for The Fuel Fund of Maryland, which turns into $15,000 of assistance for people in Baltimore who can’t afford to heat their homes this winter.
In November, we asked you all to donate 1,570 cans of food so we could fill the shelves of a Baltimore food bank to help feed the homeless and the needy this holiday season. Two weeks later, we dropped off 2112 cans of food that YOU brought to the station — to the Canton Baptist Church on Toone Street.
And then, on Tuesday, December 21, you made it possible for us to drop off 232 coats and another 100 or so blankets, gloves and hats to the Helping Up Mission.
So many of you participated in our October, November and December charitable endeavors that it would be an injustice for me to list one name…because leaving one name out would be grossly unfair. Those of you who participated were thanked by us when you made your donation and we know, for certain, none of this would have happened with you.
We talk and write about sports at WNST Radio and WNST.net.
That’s what we’re supposed to do, I guess.
Sports is a big deal in Baltimore. We make it our livelihoods at WNST/WNST.net and we hopefully serve a purpose as your go-to information and communication outlet during the sports seasons that dominate our 12-month calendar.
But this stuff — helping people who need help because they’re down on their luck and they’re TRYING to restore dignity to their lives — is what we should spend our time doing more of, using sports as a conduit to helping our community.
Anyone can read the scores and tell you why Cam Cameron called the wrong play on 3rd and 2 or how the Orioles failed once again to sign a key free agent or why Maryland was right – or wrong – to fire Ralph Friedgen.
But helping people with sports as the connective piece to that assistance is what our true day-to-day goal should be.
If we pull that off, we’re all champions, no matter what the scoreboard says this Sunday when the Ravens play in Cleveland or on opening day when the Tigers visit the Orioles in April.
Brian Roberts and Ray Lewis are both supporters of HUM. Roberts, in fact, is overseeing the refurbishing of the downstairs rec room and he’s currently mentoring four men who are in the HUM program. Ray Lewis has visited the facility and was recently featured on ESPN through his connection to the outstanding work being done at the facility in Baltimore.
We’re all connected to sports, of course, because we love it and we love our teams and the pride they bring to our community.
Today, though, you were all connected to something much greater than sports. You were connected to the men at Helping Up Mission who felt your compassion for their recovery and their efforts to help one another through their respective life challenges.
You did it today.
You helped men in Baltimore feel better about themselves and their future.
On behalf of everyone at WNST, I couldn’t say thank you to all of you enough.
Be grateful for all that you have this holiday season and remember, above all, that you can always make a difference with people if it’s in your heart to do so.
And God Bless the men at Helping Up Mission. May 2011 be the start of a better life for all of them.
(For those of you interested in learning more about Helping Up Mission, you can check out their website at www.helpingupmission.org)