Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The gift of warmth

Land Line Now news anchor Reed Black has a neat story for this Thanksgiving week. It will air Nov. 24 and Nov. 28 on Sirius XM, The Road Dog Channel, 6-7 p.m. Central.

Reed says it’s the story of an Iowa couple who truck together and participate in the Trucker Buddy program. But here’s a secret, and it’s one the Trucker Buddy class doesn’t know. This husband and wife trucking team go an extra mile by personally paying for warm coats for some of the kids.

These two special people are members of OOIDA, but Reed says he isn’t using their names because they want to remain anonymous as far as the coat donations go. And for that reason, his report won’t mention where the classroom is, or who their teacher is.

The couple has been involved in their own coats-for-kids project for five years now. They told Reed that it helps that the teacher is in cahoots with them, too, and is particularly talented at finding bargain-priced coats online and persuading stores into allowing discounts.

When this trucking pair visits their first graders, they go strictly as Trucker Buddies. Reed says the kids have no idea their “buddies” have anything to do with the coats.

There’s a bit of background to why a Trucker Buddy story about warm coats caught Reed Black’s interest. Procuring warm coats for kids and others who need them is something he knows a bit about.

Before he was the news anchor and staff reporter for Land Line Now, he was a reporter for KCTV-5 here in Kansas City. Years ago, he did a series about people who had no heat because their utilities had been shut off because of non-payment.

“The policy back then was ‘tough luck,’ ” says Reed, “and utility companies had no cold weather rule.”

After he did the series, Reed’s interest didn’t diminish. He suggested to the news director that the station do something to address the situation, and a program called “Heat for Life” was born. For the first few years, the program just collected money to help people keep their utilities turned on during winter months. Then it developed into more.

Around 1983, KCTV-5 partnered with The Kansas City Star and it became “Project Warmth.”

“It became apparent from the news station’s contacts with the charitable agencies around town that there was a greater need,” says Reed. “So it got expanded.”

Since the program began, Project Warmth has collected tons of coats and blankets and more than $7.25 million. During Thanksgiving and the holidays, it’s the runaway favorite charity in KC.

“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Reed says.