"First of all, seeing all that destruction firsthand and early on, your first reaction makes you want to do something," said Matt Santini, Cartersville mayor and WBHF station manager, who initially viewed the storm damage Thursday. "Then being from the radio side of it, having so many people call or email or just say, 'What can I do to help?' [made me want] to provide an outlet for people to be able to help because our community has really risen to the occasion here on a lot of different levels to make sure that our own are taken care of. ... Being a radio station, we could have done this ourselves.
"But we figured that including the Tribune and Cartersville UNCUT [would show] the community -- as they've all come together to work together -- that we could all work together for the betterment of everybody. I just know going into this we're going to have a fun time. On the air, we're going to entertain people and in the process we're going to do a lot of good for local people."
At this time, Santini has secured two foundations that have committed to matching a portion of Wednesday's financial contributions.
"We've got some pretty exciting news about the monetary donations," he said. "I'm still working on this. So far we've got two foundations that have agreed to match the contributions that we get on Wednesday morning. One of the foundations will match up to $2,000. The other one will match up to $5,000. I'm hopeful that I'll have a third foundation that will match up to $2,000, which means that at least for that first $2,000 if somebody were to give $25 that automatically would become $100. If somebody gives $100, it will become $400."
Along with monetary donations, items ranging from baby food and formula to personal hygiene products are needed. For those unable to participate in the radio-thon, volunteers also will collect funds at the intersection of Erwin and Church streets in Cartersville. All of the donations -- items and monetary -- will be delivered to the local United Way, which will distribute the contributions to those in need. With this in mind, checks need to be made out to the United Way of Bartow County.
"Matt approached me with it and I thought it was a phenomenal idea, because we will be covering the airwaves, the printed media and social media to try to pull people in Bartow County together," said Johnette Dawson, publisher of The Daily Tribune News and a board member of the local United Way. "People want to do something, but they don't know where to go. So we're trying to give them one central location so that for a few hours they can bring money by, they can call in and pledge money, or they can bring actual products by and donate.
"With the economy being like it's been the last couple of years, all nonprofits are struggling. United Way -- they filter money to their nonprofit agencies in town -- so if you give to United Way, it's a central location and they distribute it out to the other organizations. I know from being on the Red Cross board in previous years, if you designate a donation to Bartow County, that's where it goes."
For Deanna Berry, executive editor for Cartersville UNCUT, the opportunity be involved in the radio-thon is a win-win for all involved. In the days following the tornadoes, her organization's Facebook page was flooded with people wanting to help their neighbors.
"We've just done whatever we could do. We've been promoting any cause we saw that we thought would bring any kind of benefit to the tornado victims," Berry said. "It's always amazing. The folks in this community never cease to amaze me. So it's just one thing after another.
"We've been listening to the scanner a lot lately. I think people are getting more involved in the real-time information that's coming across. People are very, very responsive. They genuinely are good people, and they want to help."
Echoing Berry's comments, Dawson said she witnessed the generosity of Bartow County residents when she and her family volunteered in the Crowe Springs area on Saturday.
"Whether or not a person is religious or has a strong religious background or belief, there's no way anyone could deny that Bartow County is a highly blessed community," Dawson said. "Not just in that we didn't have any deaths and the injuries based on the amount of destruction were really rather small in number. We had some injuries but nothing near some of the other communities. But most of all, just because of the number of people with a big heart and giving spirit.
"To see people take money from their own pocket, to give their own time, their own gas to run their four-wheelers or their vehicles or their chain saws, was overwhelming. They gave everything they had and did all they could to help total strangers. To have a community with people like that in it, to me it's a huge blessing. I can't imagine anybody even wanting to live anywhere except Bartow County."
Following the radio-thon, WBHF and The Daily Tribune News -- 251 S. Tennessee St. in Cartersville -- still will serve as collection sites for the United Way.