Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Families Come Together to Help Citizens of a Devastated Country Half a World Away

By Jeanne Shuffler

A family can be defined as any group of people you can count on when you need help, whether they be friends, relatives or a combination of the two. Right now, the people of Japan are in desperate need of help and hope. On Saturday, March 19th, a family, made up of kindhearted Dallas residents and the folks at Dallas/Fort Worth Spanish radio station MEGA 107.5 FM, joined the American Red Cross in answering the call for help by hosting a fundraising carwash to support relief efforts half a world away.

In the days and weeks following the Earthquake and Tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11, the American Red Cross has been working tirelessly to raise funds to provide help and hope. Just after the disasters occurred, the staff at MEGA 107.5 FM reached out to the American Red Cross to offer their help. Outside a Wendy’s in Oak Cliff on a sunny and at times, windy afternoon, the mission to raise funds for relief began. I was lucky enough to be there to see this family as they not only scrubbed cars free of dirt, but provided the same kind of restoration for the country of Japan.

When I arrived, I was immediately given a warm welcome by members of the MEGA 107.5 station and Red Cross volunteers. Greetings had to remain short and sweet, as cars were coming in droves, often with the line wrapping around the parking lot. Even when we thought we had cleared them all and could take a breather, a large lunch truck came around the corner ready for its touch-up, calling for all hands on deck.

We saw repeat customers that were also repeat donors. One gentleman came through the carwash, donated, rolled his window down a second time to tell us what a great job we were doing, and donated again. Later, the same gentleman came back with a different vehicle, and donated a third time, compelled to act as family for people half a world away who needed his help.

Looking around at the diversity of the volunteers, I was curious where they all came from. Some came from area schools where MEGA 107.5’s morning personality, Shoboy, encourages Hispanic students to stay in school and be active in their community. Some volunteers were from a local sorority and fraternity that had arranged to come and help. The rest - they just showed up.

When I asked one woman what brought her out with her young son and daughter, she mentioned they were listening to the radio at home when the kids heard about the carwash. They told her they wanted to come out to help wash the cars. Once she knew the kids weren’t going to let up, she packed them in the car and drove out to Oak Cliff from their home in Arlington. Now that’s family!

It was truly a pleasure to meet the variety of people there that day. One in particular was eight year old Diana Osorio, who became my little helper. Whatever job needed to be done, she was on top of it. It was hard to tell where she was at times. One second she was waving a sign to get the cars to come in, the next soaping up a Honda, and the next asking if she could hold the box to take the next donation. For eight hours, Diana didn’t stop once and her commitment to help out was infectious.

I was so amazed and impressed with the sense of community I experienced that afternoon. It was only matched by the selfless generosity I witnessed from the endless stream of cars that came through. Two incredible things happened at the end of the day. First, Shoboy gathered all the volunteers together in an inspirational huddle expressing the station’s gratitude for all who came out and worked so hard. Second, nearly $1,700 was raised for the American Red Cross for the relief efforts in Japan.

Though I was touched and in awe of the events of the day, nobody else seemed too surprised about what we had accomplished together. I was told that what I had experienced – people who didn’t know each other coming together to help the citizens of a devastated country half a world away – this is the essence of family. All I can say to MEGA 107.5 FM, their wonderful listeners and the volunteers at the American Red Cross is that, as a family, we provided help and hope to citizens of Japan. “Muchas gracias” for a great day!

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