It’s 5:30 AM and I’m sitting behind a phone and large laptop listening to CISN FM’s early morning show. I’m in a small boardroom: three rows of tables, three phones to a table, donation info-sheets and pens lined up beside each phone. Jodie, our radio liaison, has arrived and is getting settled. David, our man at the bridge, has also arrived and is checking wires and plugs. And now the coffee appears, a donation from Starbucks, and vital.
I wait through a Conway Twitty tune, imagine phones ringing, handsets jumping, making those vibrating cartoon parenthesis…but I have no idea what to expect. It’s 2005—Hope Mission’s first radiothon. Whither the calls? A trickle? A flood? A bank of phones that fail to work?
It’s early October and the sun won’t be up for a couple hours. But already I’ve seen movement—met Tom outside on my walk here. Tom, who has been on the street for many years, and because of a tragic history will never be employable. And I’ve also seen Rick who is up and getting ready to go to a temp employment agency—get ahead of the line, maybe a job for a day, or maybe something that lasts. And soon I’ll see some guys from Hope’s Breakout recovery community come by and begin helping with morning clean-up and breakfast setup. Some blocks away there will be a similar scene at our women’s centre. These are the people we are here for.
The six o’clock news is over and I hear Bruce Bowie say that for the next three days CISN FM will be hosting Hope Mission’s Feed the Hungry Radiothon, and will, himself, be living on the street for the next two days and nights, giving listeners first hand accounts, stories from the street.
Another five minutes, and then a call: a driver for Grimshaw Trucking, just about to head north to Fort McMurray, hoping he was the first to call in. I tell him, "Yes, congratulations!" He gives me the donation details and wants me to issue a challenge to all Edmonton’s long-haul truckers. I pass this on and in a while, more calls. Well, it’s all a bit of magic.
Two days later, at dawn, eight of us are at the phones, all busy. The laptop is lighting up signalling online gifts. It’s the morning drive show. Things will cool off, then heat up again, and after it’s over, Bruce Bowie will announce that we’ve raised over three times the original goal: 40,000 meals or around $110,000.
And why not? At the heart of all this activity are human stories, stories that touch us and move us—and often, we find, are all too near to us.
A meal for a hungry person, a bed for a tired body, warmth and a bit of dignity for a hurting life, is hope; and hope is the engine that can bring change, open a heart, start a new life.