Local businesses open wallets for tornado relief

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Indianapolis-area corporate and private donors have given more than $1 million to tornado-relief efforts in southern Indiana and local TV stations are taking a big part in the fundraising efforts.

Several of the stations set up phone banks following Friday’s deadly twisters and are forwarding donations to the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis and the Salvation Army’s Indiana chapter.

As of Wednesday morning, the Red Cross estimated that it has received at least $750,000 in donations while the Salvation Army put its contributions at $427,000.

“Indiana really does a good job helping people,” said John Lyter, CEO of the local Red Cross. “It has a long tradition of doing that.”

WTHR-TV Channel 13, WISH-TV Channel 8 and WXIN-TV Channel 59 opened their phone lines to viewers and collectively raised more than $900,000, including $436,500 from WTHR. WISH and WXIN raised more than $230,000 each.

WRTV-TV Channel 6, meanwhile, helped raise $45,000 in conjunction with WIBC-FM 93.1 during a donation drive on Monument Circle.

The total figure includes a donation of $75,000 from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay who donated $50,000 through WISH and $25,000 through WTHR. Pacers Sports & Entertainment gave $100,000 to the Red Cross and staged a fundraiser at the Pacers-Atlanta Hawks game Tuesday night.

Eli Lilly and Co. Foundation also pledged $100,000 to the American Red Cross and said it will match Lilly employee contributions to relief efforts. And the Verizon Foundation said Wednesday that it would donate $50,000 to the Red Cross.

Coincidentally, WTHR had been forming an emergency-response partnership with the Red Cross, dubbed WTHR Cares, when the tornadoes struck, said Angela Cain, the station’s community affairs director.

“We started forming this about a month ago, and then Mother Nature called,” she said. “But we made it come together.”

WISH General Manager Jeff White said his station mobilized employees on Saturday morning, the day after the storms, to organize fundraising efforts.

White and fellow station leaders say their campaigns are not about who raised the most money or who became involved first.

“This is not a competition among stations, because it’s all going to a good cause,” said Lee Rosenthal, WXIN news director.

Televisions stations have an ideal platform to raise money simply by the large populations they reach. In that sense, they walk a fine line between the work they do for a community and the self-promotion that can follow, said Bruce Bryant, founder of Indianapolis-based Promotus Advertising, which often helps clients with charity-based marketing.

“When there’s such wide devastation, the question starts to become, is that opportunistic?'” Bryant said. “And I think the answer is, as long as it’s done in reasonable taste, you haven’t crossed that line. It’s good business.”

Bryant thinks the stations have acted responsibly but thought they should have tried to combine their efforts into one fundraising drive so “no one can be singled out of getting ahead of the competition at the expense of a natural disaster,” he said.

White at WISH said he realizes the potential danger of heavy promotion, but said the amount of destruction that resulted in 39 deaths puts their efforts into perspective.

“When you hear the devastating story of the lady who lost her legs to protect her children, it’s not about who collected the most,” he said. “We’re about recognizing and thanking people for what they have done.”



  • good question-any answer?
    Good story but in recent "help victims" TV story, the reporter described all the "disciplines" turning out to help==doctors, health care, firement, social work agencies, animal rescue etc...BUT WITH ONE NOTICABLE PROFESSION ABSENT TOTALLY--and the comment was: "with everybody helping Henryville area, where are any pro bono lawyers?"---so perhaps Mickey M. (who is one) might take on the question because what a great opportunity for reputable pro bono team of local attorneys to go down to protect storm victims or at least to advise---so far only legal eagles landing represent the insurance/lenders--not the insured and post-disaster is a breeding ground where the helpless get plucked . Any good pro bono firm want to step up to the plate?
  • Lots of help, I hope
    There's even a "Public Media Colleagues Helping Colleagues Fund" that gets voluntary donations that's offering to help our public media colleagues who've suffered losses from the storm. My colleagues are some of the most generous folks I've known.

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  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?