Ali: Labor of loveWritten by Sanya Ali | | email@example.com
I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller assigned me this special issue covering the American Red Cross summer benefit CD.
It began with the tongue-in-cheek question, “Are you a lover or a fighter?” I’ve never been a fighter, so I answered “lover.” “Great, you are in charge of the Red Cross CD issue,” he said (Staff Writer Amanda Tindall received the “fighter” assignment with last week’s Military Yearbook issue).
When it came time for a briefing, Miller made me aware of a few key details of the project. The CD had not yet been completed but preparations began in January. At least 20 stories would need to be written. Then, he told me about the cause — the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio. For those of you who don’t know Miller, he’s very passionate about his causes. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about the project.
Looking back, working on this issue was a collection of pleasant surprises.
My first revelation: I never knew the breadth of the Red Cross’ mission. I believed the Red Cross was just an annual blood drive.
I have learned during the past few weeks that the Red Cross is a far-reaching organization that has touched lives affected by many different disasters. Be it a personal health struggle or a natural disaster, the Red Cross has been there to provide support and assistance. I had the pleasure of talking to Tim Yenrick, CEO of the Northwest Ohio branch, and Amanda Aldrich, their communications specialist.
Yenrick was so pleased with the results of last year’s project, which raised more than $10,000, that he was more than ready to jump on board this year.
Aldrich filled in the gaps in my knowledge of our local Red Cross. I also spoke with Bo McComas, a volunteer with the Red Cross who informed me about the projects the Red Cross has been involved in during the past year alone. McComas serves in both the Disaster Relief and Service to the Armed Forces wings of the organization, so he sees a wide range of cases in which the Red Cross has made an impact.
I also heard a powerful story from a Red Cross beneficiary.
Tina Zeiter lost her home in a fire last year around the time she was planning to host her daughter’s wedding. Thankfully, the Red Cross stepped in. They fed, clothed and housed Zeiter and her family and helped them rebuild. They’ve now been in their new house for three months. That is the kind of story people need to hear.
The second happy surprise: The musicians we worked with for this project are total gems. When I heard the CD for the first time, the sheer talent of these men and women struck me. Nearly every song on the CD is an original; there’s only one cover. Put together, the tracks truly epitomize a real Toledo summer, whether they are explicitly about the Glass City or not.
The fact that Miller, the musicians and the project’s sponsors are willing to give up time and resources for these causes gives me so much hope for journalism. This type of selflessness proves that newspapers are not just corporate entities. They are groups of caring people who want to give more than just a story to help address important issues.
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer Sanya Ali is project editor for the 2014 American Red Cross benefit CD issue. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.