Pretty much every TV and radio station in Chicago will air constant public service announcements Thursday from 5 AM to 11 PM asking their audiences to contribute to Haitian relief efforts of the American Red Cross. The number you'll be asked to call is 1-877-565-5000, which will reach a phone bank set up by Hewitt Associates, a human resources firm in Lincolnshire.
"The infrastructure is in place," says WFMT's executive vice president, Steve Robinson, who's a principal organizer of this media blitz. "We just had to push the rock down the hill, and now it's running on its own. I was amazed at how fast this came together." The infrastructure dates back five years, to the collective response Robinson organized to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. He says almost $2.5 million was raised then, even though the 100-phone call center Hewitt set up turned out to be insufficient and 25 percent of the calls into it were dropped. This time, Hewitt's providing 150 phones. Company employees volunteering their time will man them.
Another key organizer is Emily Barr, president of ABC 7 in Chicago. "She jumped on the tsunami one fast and this one faster," says Robinson.