HAZARD —A telethon in Hazard this week raised more than $180,000 to benefit those affected by the recent tornadoes in Kentucky.
Halfway to Hazard and WYMT-TV hosted the telethon on March 13, and raised around $80,000 in donations that came in before, and another $100,000 was pledged during the event. The money is being put in a fund administered by the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky that will be dispersed as needed to the hundreds of people who lost their homes.
One of the telethon organizers, Janet Smith, who also organizes the charity concert at Crockettsville each year, said that the whole evening came about after she received a call from the manager of Chad Warrix, of the country duo Halfway to Hazard.
“Chad’s manager contacted me the day after the tornadoes and said that he (Warrix) wanted to do something,” said Smith. “We kind of bounced it around off a few of us, and we thought to get the most money would be a telethon.”
Within a just a few hours Smith had contacted WYMT and they had agreed to donate three hours of air time to the telethon.
“At that point Chad contacted David (Tolliver, also of Halfway to Hazard) to see if he would be interested in doing it as H2H, and he graciously agreed,” Smith continued.
Halfway to Hazard has hosted charity events many times in the past. They host the annual Crockettesville Charity Concert and Trail Ride which benefits the Buckhorn Children’s Center, and they also hosted a concert to benefit the victims of flooding in Breathitt County just a couple of years ago.
Smith said they raised $57,000 during that concert, but also realized they could raise even more with a television broadcast.
“We knew we would get more money doing a telethon than doing a concert, because only a certain number of people can come to a concert,” she said.
Warrix and Tolliver, who are natives of Breathitt and Knott County respectively, have lived in Nashville for many years, but they still focus much of their charity efforts in their hometown area. Smith said this is because they appreciate all that this area has done for them.
“They just want to give back to the people that have been so good to them,” she noted.
Smith added that the telethon was a lot of work in around a week’s time, but that the folks at WYMT were very easy to work with and helpful. Several people from Perry County also manned the phones while Halfway to Hazard preformed.
Much of the money that was donated came in the form of small donations from many people. However, Smith said that some businesses and anonymous donors really helped the cause.
“Of course Dave and Susie Duff, Pine Branch Coal, and the employees,” she noted. “We had a large donation from First Trust Bank of $21,000, and then lots of smaller ones. We had a couple of $10,000 anonymous donations, we even had some Nashville money coming in. We had one donation of $5,000 come from Nashville.”
She and the rest of the event organizers are incredibly thankful for everyone that donated, but said the work is far from over. Now that they have such a large pool of money, they are going to begin working with people in the affected communities and figure out the best way to distribute it.
“The next step is to form an advisory committee, and that committee will consist of key people in each of the counties that were affected by the tornadoes,” Smith explained. “Then those people will be the ones that will pass the money out. It will probably be in the form of a grant.”
Since the cleanup and rebuilding will be a long and ongoing process, money will continue to be collected in this fund for as long as people are willing to donate. One local business, Jabo’s State of Mine in Hazard, is continuing to help give by donating 10 percent of their profits from this weekend’s sales towards the fund.
It has been stated several times in community meetings and in interviews that it is easy to help while the memory is still fresh and the victims remain on the news and in the paper, however, they will continue to need help for months to come. Organizers said they hope this fund will supply some of this long-term help for these communities.
To give to the fund you can send a check to the East Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund P.O. Box 310, Chavies, KY 41727. You can also log onto http://www.appalachianky.org/tornadoFund.html to learn more.