Greater Media Charlotte Mobilizes Aid for Columbia, SC, Communities during Catastrophic Flooding

January 1, 2016

 

The familiar line from poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Water, water every where/Nor any drop to drink,” was painfully true in early October, as historic rainfall in southeastern South Carolina caused devastating flooding, downed power lines and water-main breaks.

 

Aerial view from WBT AM/FM and The Link’s South Carolina water drive.

Aerial view from WBT AM/FM and The Link’s South Carolina water drive.

According to the National Weather Service, rainfall topped 15-20 inches, with some localize

d amounts hitting more than 25 inches. The waters washed away entire communities across South Carolina. At one point, Columbia, a mere 90 minutes from Greater Media Charlotte, had more than 40,000 people without power. Greater Media Charlotte had listeners and employees whose family members were directly affected by the rising flood waters. Many of the evacuees and residents were without clean drinking water for days.

For News Talk 1110 WBT AM/99.3 FM and 107.9 WLNK-FM, it hit very close to home. With a signal that can, at times, cover most parts of South Carolina, Greater Media Charlotte couldn’t just stand by and watch its neighbors suffer without doing something.

Greater Media Charlotte staff at the South Carolina water drive—(l-r) Controller Twan Barber, Executive Assistant Jessica RoBards, WBT AM/FM Host Bo Thompson, WLNK-FM Host Sheri Lynch, WLNK-FM Program Director Darla Thomas and GMC General Manager Rick Feinblatt

Greater Media Charlotte staff at the South Carolina water drive—(l-r) Controller Twan Barber, Executive Assistant Jessica RoBards, WBT AM/FM Host Bo Thompson, WLNK-FM Host Sheri Lynch, WLNK-FM Program Director Darla Thomas and GMC General Manager Rick Feinblatt

Late Monday, October 5, Greater Media’s stations decided they had to act. WBT AM/FM and WLNK-FM put the call out to their listeners that on Tuesday, October 6, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the stations would be accepting cases of bottled water at StoneCrest Shopping Center in front of the Harris Teeter supermarket in Charlotte. The intent was to bring together businesses and listeners to help the people of Columbia by supplying what most people take for granted: clean drinking water.

Soon Harris Teeter representatives called, saying they wanted to donate an entire tractor-trailer full of water—that’s 42,000 bottles!

The outpouring of generosity continued throughout the day as listeners arrived in droves. They brought water in six-packs, 12-packs, cases and pallets. Truckloads of donations were dropped off, and they just kept coming.

People were driving across town to donate; some even came from border towns because no one in South Carolina was collecting water.

WBT AM/FM Host Keith Larson broadcasts live from the South Carolina water drive from atop a “mountain of water.”

WBT AM/FM Host Keith Larson broadcasts live from the South Carolina water drive from atop a “mountain of water.”

Throughout the day WBT AM/FM and The Link talent went into action, doing call-ins and spreading the word through social media. Local news stations picked up the story, and the drive kept growing.

When everything was over at 7 p.m., after nine hours of donations, there was a mountain of water. Everyone involved realized that one moving truck was never going to transport all of the donations. A call to Harris Teeter resulted in another semi-truck arriving in the middle of the night; Two Men and a Truck also sent two more moving trucks. And the loading began!

WBT AM/FM’s Bo Thompson and WLNK-FM’s Sheri Lynch unload water at Progressive Believers Baptist Church in Columbia, SC.

WBT AM/FM’s Bo Thompson and WLNK-FM’s Sheri Lynch unload water at Progressive Believers Baptist Church in Columbia, SC.

Around 30 listeners decided that they wanted to do more than just donate; they wanted to help pack the trucks too. With these volunteers and 15 Greater Media employees, the trucks were filled. On Thursday, October 8, a caravan of two semi-trailers from Harris Teeter, two moving vans from Two Men and a Truck, a box truck and two station vehicles headed to different locations in Columbia: Progressive Believers Baptist Church, Forest Hill Baptist Church, the City Water Distribution Center and the Red Cross Distribution Warehouse.

By the time one of the moving trucks was unloaded at Progressive Believers Baptist Church, half of that water had already been given out to a steady stream of families. The people kept coming, and the volunteers kept unloading water to people who repeatedly expressed their gratitude.

The stories Greater Media Charlotte staffers heard were both heartbreaking and inspirational. On Thursday’s John Hancock afternoon show on WBT AM/FM, Morning Host Bo Thompson, who was part of the caravan along with The Link’s Sheri Lynch and other staffers, told of a restaurant employee who had lost her house yet returned to work the next day to help feed others in need.

As Bo told Fox 46: “I think a lot of people are in the same boat I am. You see the pictures and you hear the stories and you think, ‘What can I do?’ You want to do something; they’re just down the road from us.”

This sentiment was echoed by Darla Thomas, WLNK-FM Program Director/Brand Manager.

107.9 FM The Link’s Ramona Holloway and Bob Lacey from the Bob & Sheri show accept donations.

107.9 FM The Link’s Ramona Holloway and Bob Lacey from the Bob & Sheri show accept donations.

“The success of our WLNK/WBT water drive is a testament to what radio does best,” Thomas said. “We connect with people on a local and personal level that touches them emotionally and causes them to react immediately. We put this drive together in less than 24 hours with results that exceeded our expectations, then personally delivered the donated water to people who’d lost everything. By mobilizing quickly and using our high-profile personalities to deliver the message of urgency, we impacted thousands of people locally and in neighboring communities.”

The best estimate is that Greater Media Charlotte raised more than 200,000 bottles of water (staffers noted that it was hard to keep track after a while!) and helped countless families throughout the Greater Columbia area. This was just one of the many times that the city of Charlotte has shown its strength and compassion by heeding a call to aid, driven by the beacons of News Talk 1110 WBT AM/99.3 FM and 107.9 FM The Link.