Thanks to the incredible generosity and spirit of the viewers and communities across Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee, four Raycom Media television stations worked with their local communities and the Greater Pine Belt Community Foundation to raise $218,000 for tornado victims with a special one-day fundraiser called "Mississippi Tornado Relief: Hope, Help & Healing" on Thursday, January 8, 2015.
Tornadoes ripped through central Mississippi two days before Christmas, killing at least five people and destroying more than 300 homes and businesses. One of the tornadoes was confirmed to be an EF3 that cut a 12 mile track through Marion County and sustained winds up to 125 mph.
WDAM-TV, the Raycom Media owned station in Hattiesburg, MS, led the effort to put on the fundraiser that benefitted the Greater Pine Belt Community Foundation. The foundation will assist with the long-term recovery needs of those affected by the tornadoes on December 23rd, 2014. Three other Raycom Media television stations in Mississippi and Tennessee joined the effort: WLBT-TV in Jackson, MS; WLOX-TV in Biloxi, MS; and WMC-TV in Memphis, TN.
"This is exactly what we believe local television is all about. Being a part of the local community and working for the local community. We are grateful to our viewers in Mississippi and the Memphis, Tennessee area for coming together and assisting their neighbors in such a large and meaningful way." said Paul McTear, President and Chief Executive Officer of Raycom Media. McTear continued by stating, "We are proud to be part of our local communities and very pleased at how the Raycom Media stations worked together to assist the people of central Mississippi."
The phone calls started coming in around 5:00am central time during the morning newscasts and continued until well into the evening with the late newscasts on Thursday. The stations involved shared the need with viewers through news coverage, promotion on the air, online and through social media.
"WDAM is such a huge part of this area, and the fundraiser was something we felt we needed to do, we could not have pulled this off without our viewers' generosity," said Joe Sciortino, WDAM's Vice President and General Manager, "From the donors to the phone bank volunteers, we are in awe of their willingness to step up and help us and our neighbors."