WATERTOWN — From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Community Cares Radiothon will return for its second year across all stations under the Watertown Community Broadcasters, with proceeds benefiting the United Way of Northern New York.
According to station President James “Jim” L. Leven, the radiothon raised between $15,000 and $20,000 in one day last year. The radiothon is looking to at least match, if not exceed, this total in 2021.
The Community Cares Radiothon came about last year initially as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the toll it was taking on the communities in the north country. Not convinced that toll is behind us yet — although Mr. Leven noted promising signs have been seen — and knowing that regardless of COVID and its impact on the north country that people need help for other reasons, it’s been brought back again.
“Our company name is Community Broadcasters — that’s what we do. We try to work with the community to do what we can to make it a better place,” Mr. Leven said. “In the north country, it’s not a difficult thing to do because north country people are about as giving and sharing as any in the country.”
When the United Way was running its distribution center last year, it ended up giving out about 2.5 million items to 32 towns, villages and school districts, and every penny of the radio fund money went into that COVID relief, UWNNY Chief Executive Officer Jamie Cox said.
Much of the funds raised will go to helping those who fall under the label of ALICE. ALICE is a United Way acronym that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, and represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working, but unable to afford basic necessities. These families are struggling — earning too little to make ends meet, but sometimes too much to qualify for support.
“I think almost all of us have been ALICE at one point or another in our lives,” Mr. Cox said. “Whether you’re just starting out of college or high school and you’re having to save up money to buy your first couch — if the car breaks down, you’re not buying that couch, you’re fixing your car so you can continue going to work. So I think everybody can relate to ALICE.”
According to Mr. Cox, ALICE is very situational. A cashier at a grocery store, there’s a chance that she has a second job working a shift perhaps at a restaurant. And this woman is working as hard as she can, but if a crisis occurs in her life — and for her a crisis could be a flat tire that she doesn’t have the money to put toward a repair — to the United Way, that is ALICE, he explained.
“When we model ALICE, 41 percent of Northern New York households are considered ALICE, so put that in the living paycheck-to-paycheck box,” he said. “We’re planning to help somewhere between 500 and 1,000 families just in this one year, and it could be anything from $100 to put a new tire on the car, all the way through to — we actually purchased and installed a furnace on a home for a family that was left in the cold for 30 days.”
The difference between an ALICE family and somebody who’s much deeper in poverty, Mr. Cox explained, is when an ALICE goes to a government agency for assistance, they probably don’t qualify because their income is just a hair too high due to the fact that they’re working. A lot of nonprofits who receive government funding also have these same income stipulations, that if you make a penny too much, you don’t qualify for help. So by the time people reach ALICE, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel that they’ve been looking for.
“It’s incumbent upon people in the broadcasting industry to use its tremendous reach to get through to people who have more than the people who need a little something to make their lives a little better,” Mr. Leven said. “That’s what we try to do, and the United Way has been so supportive of the north country. Nobody does a better job supporting the many organizations that reach out and touch people who can use some help.”
Those wishing to tune in and donate to the radiothon may do so by turning their radios to stations like FM 106.7, FM 95.3, FM 100.7, FM 103.1, FM 104.1, and FM 94.1.