Summer CD of local music to benefit American Red CrossWritten by Sanya Ali | | email@example.com
What do you get when you mix a newspaper, a group of talented artists and a deserving cause?
You get Toledo Free Press’ second annual summer CD, “Red, White & You, Too!,” which released July 3 at Frisch’s Big Boy and Ralphie’s restaurants across Northwest Ohio.
As editor in chief, Michael S. Miller has established two major philanthropic musical projects: a holiday CD for Make-A-Wish Foundation and the summer CD, which benefits the Disaster Relief Fund and Service to Armed Forces wings of the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio.
“On a professional level, because the community has responded so strongly to Toledo Free Press and its mission, we have an obligation to use our format to give back to the community,” Miller said.
Miller had a personal experience with the Red Cross in July 1985, when the apartment building he and his family lived in caught fire.
“It was the American Red Cross and the United Way that sheltered and clothed and shoed and blanketed and got my little family back on its feet. I’ve never forgotten how quick those organizations were to respond,” Miller said.
The first summer CD came out in 2013 and raised more than $10,000. Miller said he hopes the amount raised this year is even greater and the CD’s impact is felt across Northwest Ohio.
“I want [listeners] to be excited by how much local talent there is,” Miller said. “I want them to hear these songs and say, ‘What a band. What a vocalist. What a great song.’”
Since last year’s CD launched, CEO Tim Yenrick said the Red Cross has used the funds throughout its disaster services unit.
“The dollars raised from the CD were very important to us this year,” Yenrick said. “Obviously with the intensity of our winter this year, we saw a marked increase in disaster services. We responded to home fires and weather-related incidents.”
Yenrick said he believes the CD is a fun way to bring attention to the organization.
“I think it’s a very unique way to raise dollars and also to get our mission message across in the community,” Yenrick said. “[Our mission is] to alleviate human suffering during disasters and individual crises.”
Yenrick was a fan of last year’s CD project; his favorite tracks were Chrys Peterson’s “(Sittin’ On The) Dock Of The Bay” and the Put-in-Bay trilogy of songs. He said he has even higher hopes for this year.
“I’m pretty excited about all the original songs,” Yenrick said. “[Miller] does such a great job of working with the artists and I’m sure it’s going to be an outstanding CD.”
Yenrick extended his personal thanks to Miller, Toledo Free Press Publisher Tom Pounds, the artists, media sponsor Newsradio 1370 WSPD and Frisch’s Big Boy and Ralphie’s restaurants for their support during the project.
“I know Miller has worked very hard and the local artists are just great in working with us on the project,” he said.
Yenrick said he wants the public to know that the Red Cross is steadfast in its dedication to Northwest Ohio.
“We are here, ready to respond, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and we appreciate financial support,” he said. “We also appreciate our volunteers who provide 95 percent of our service in the community. We’re always here ready to respond to a natural disaster and to work with our military families and to provide health and safety training throughout the community.”
Amanda Aldrich, communications specialist for the area Red Cross, said she regards altruism highly.
“It’s genuine selflessness and heartfelt compassion,” Aldrich said. “It’s looking outside yourself and offering what you have — talents, time, money — to make things better for someone else. It can be big or it can be small, but everything you do can make a difference.”
A Red Cross success story
On Sept. 7, Tina Zeiter was preparing to celebrate her daughter’s wedding. The event was set for the following week at Zeiter’s house. Family gathered and worked tirelessly to prepare the space for a memorable day.
No one could have foreseen what happened at 12:30 a.m. Sept. 8.
Zeiter awoke to her grandson’s cries and found the house enveloped in smoke. Her first thought: Find grandchildren Chase, 9, and Savanna, 4.
“Before I realized it, I had swallowed a big gulp of heavy, black smoke,” Zeiter said. “I didn’t think to cover my mouth at the time, only to get the kids out of the room. I grabbed the kids; Chase was still on the bed and was helping me look for Savanna on the lower bed. He could see her only because she had put light-up bracelets on her bear’s wrist and she had the bear beside her, still asleep.”
Zeiter’s family made it outside, but the emotional toll the incident took was massive.
“It’s almost as if you go numb,” Zeiter said. “Even today, I can still feel the emotions go through me. It’s almost unexplainable; it’s like you are falling and can’t stop and no one is there to catch you. You just go through the movements, answer the questions, but you are in a daze. To have the weight of responsibility on your shoulders alone for the safety of your own children and grandchildren, as well as the loss of your house is unimaginable.”
Zeiter said from the moment she stepped out of the house, Red Cross of Northwest Ohio was ready to help.
“The Red Cross helped by arranging a place for us to stay for the first two nights and providing us with a debit card to be used to purchase food and clothing,” Zeiter said. “We only had the pajamas on our backs when we left the house. I had grabbed a jacket in my bedroom as I raced out, but that was it. We didn’t even have shoes to wear.”
What really stood out to Zeiter was the emotional support she gained from the organization.
“It was when I finally sat down in the truck and listened to the volunteers that I finally began to cry,” Zeiter said. “It was like I needed to be strong in front of my family, but my family wasn’t in the truck. The Red Cross team was very comforting. I felt as if I didn’t have to bear all the weight, that someone else was going to take charge now and tell me what to do.”
Since early this year, Zeiter and her family have been living in their newly renovated home, courtesy of contractor Cousino Harris.
“When I wake up in the morning or when I go home at night, I am struck by the sense of appreciation I have for the people who have touched my life and have been there for me, whether it be the Red Cross as a support, the contractor rebuilding my home, the insurance representative, [or]friends and family that have been there to support me and my family. I am truly thankful for their role in my life,” Zeiter said.
The proceeds from this year’s CD will help guarantee that, in the event of such tragedy, the Red Cross can again step in and spare a family some of the pain.
“People should know that those working for the Red Cross are clearly very special people,” Zeiter said. “Most of us may never cross paths with the Red Cross, but those of us who will, the Red Cross is as much of a financial support, providing food, clothing and shelter, as they are an emotional support.”
A volunteer’s perspective
Bo McComas has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for years.
“When I retired, a friend of mine said I might want to consider the Red Cross because I absolutely love helping people,” McComas said. “I decided to advance and I’m a volunteer supervisor now. I just love it.”
McComas assists in the local Disaster Action Team, which deals with fires and other similar incidents. He also flies around the country to assist in repairs following tornadoes and hurricanes.
“I’m also a Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) worker,” McComas said. “When there is a death or an illness in the family of the servicemember, the Red Cross will give the notification to the servicemember. I follow up and make sure the servicemember was able to make it home.”
The past year has seen much activity for McComas.
“I have responded to three natural disasters and I have reached four house fires,” McComas said. “I’m in the middle of five SAF cases as we speak, doing follow-ups for the military.”
McComas said people should become aware that the Red Cross does projects with the intention of letting victims recover at their own pace.
“We offer shelter, food and clothing,” McComas said. “We actually give them a credit card. That makes them independent and allows them to do their own recovery.”
This year’s CD donations will ensure volunteers like McComas have the means to assist in future disasters.
Artists take control
“Red, White & You, Too!” is different from previous Toledo Free Press charity projects because almost every track is an original both written and performed by the artist.
“I’ve always relied on cover songs because they’re well-known and it’s an easier sell,” Miller said. “When music began to come in for this year’s summer project, the originals were so outstanding and they were so professionally recorded and produced, I lost that fear.”
The selection process was extensive, as Miller had to sort through the nearly 40 submissions to find the songs that really spoke to the theme of the project.
“My methodology is to play them in the car, everywhere I go, which means in the middle of January’s deep freeze I’m playing these summer tracks,” Miller said. “Only through repeated exposure can you figure out how they fit together and how they work off each other.”
Miller said he has worked with a few of the artists on previous projects, but many new voices grace this year’s summer disc.
“It’s easy to get comfortable and rely on some of the same artists,” Miller said. “I know they would answer the call. For the health of the project and for my personal interest in the project, working with new artists is an important step. It’s important to challenge yourself and not get complacent or too comfortable.”
While summer CD staples Kyle White and Pat Dailey (who Miller said is the definition of summer music) did make this year’s tracklist, Miller said he made an effort to include newcomers whose contributions really stood out.
“Having new groups like Thirsty Houligans, Zak Ward or Birds of Chicago contribute really did freshen up the project for me personally and I hope that is communicated to the listeners as well,” he said.
Matt Feher, professionally known as Mighty Wyte, has been donating studio time to Miller’s CD projects for several years.
Though he said his role is much greater on the Christmas CDs, the Red Cross project also benefits from a good deal of his input.
“I basically assist with final engineering, assembly, trimming any ‘dead’ space at the front or back of any song, making sure all artist and song information is correctly entered and ‘CD Text’ is enforced,” Feher said. “I burn the final ‘Red Book’ and give it to Miller for final inspection before it’s sent out and pressed.”
Feher first got involved with these projects a few years back because Miller is a close friend. Giving back to his community is something he strongly endorses.
“I can help a lot of people and some great causes,” Feher said. “It’s one of those things where I can turn grains of sand into pearls.”
Giving to charities like Red Cross, Feher said, benefits everyone in the long run.
“People say ‘Treat others as you wish to be treated,’ but rarely practice it,” he said. “So to help someone or some charitable organization out just makes good karmic sense.”
Feher also commends Miller’s dedication to his charity projects.
“Miller takes on a great deal of the workload when it comes to all of these projects,” he said. “He’s entirely too humble about how much work he puts into these things and how much time and effort goes into these CDs.
“He’s an amazing guy and he’s insanely busy,” Feher said. “So to get a few hours a year to just work with him on a project is pretty fun.”
Feher said he is proud of this year’s project and that the team who worked on it was dedicated to creating an amazing CD.
“Me, the other engineers who work on the audio and the people who contribute music work very hard to create a quality catalog of music,” Feher said. “We’re not selling hack-job recordings of poorly arranged material. Everything is produced as well as it can be, engineered as well as it can be and packaged like any other off-the-shelf CD.”
Tags: Amanda Aldrich, American Red Cross, Birds of Chicago, Bo McComas, Christmas CDs, Chrys Peterson, Cousino Harris, Frisch's Big Boy, Kyle White, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Matt Feher, Mighty Wyte, Newsradio 1370 WSPD, Pat Dailey, Put-in-Bay, Ralphie's, Red White & You Too, Service to Armed Forces, Thirsty Houligans, Tina Zeiter, Zak Ward