Article and photo by Mike Billoni
A pair of Grand Island residents assisted DJ Jickster of 97 Rock during his record-setting ninth annual "Rock Out Hunger" to benefit the Food Bank of Western New York. Jickster, who annually lives on a Food Bank trailer for one week before Thanksgiving collecting turkeys, food and cash for the Food Bank, lost almost three days because of the November storm.
Despite the shortened timeframe, the community responded, as he collected a record $30,000, nearly 20,000 pounds of food and more than 1,600 frozen turkeys while he lived in the trailer in front of the Eastern Hills Mall on Transit Road in Williamsville.
A big reason for his success was the on-air promotional support from WKBW-TV Channel 7.
Grand Island resident Sue Dobmeier, the creative services director at Channel 7 who oversees promotions, production, graphics, on-air promotional support, commercial production, "AM Buffalo" shoots and the overall graphic look of the station, spearheaded a "7 Cares For The Community" campaign to support "Rock Out Hunger."
"We saw the need to do more for the community, and getting behind the 'Rock Out Hunger' campaign was perfect as the 'Snowvember storm' had depleted the Food Bank of WNY's supplies. ... Giving back to the community is what WKBW is all about," Dobmeier said.
"We talked with our parent company, E.W. Scripps Co., and told them what we wanted to do to help the community after the snowstorm, and they stepped up with a $5,000 donation from the Scripps Howard Foundation, then First Niagara Bank's foundation gave $2,500 as well," she added. "That was a good start to help make the holidays brighter for those in need in WNY."
Dobmeier's team created a "7 Cares For The Community" graphic, and the station ran commercials and news stories advising the community it could donate online at the Food Bank's website or at any First Niagara Bank branch until Dec. 5. The station also had live reports from the trailer during all of its newscasts from Monday through the end on Wednesday.
"Rock Out Hunger" was held Nov. 22-26. Annually, it is a promotion parents use to teach their children about giving back to the community.
Six years ago, Kurt and Gail Villani of Grand Island, who own Gui's Lumber and Ace Lumber on Whitehaven Road, began a tradition with their children and grandchildren of donating 250 turkeys on Jickster's opening day. This year, their son, Kurt P. Villani of Grand Island, and his son, Kurt Jr., a Canisius High School junior, delivered the turkeys.
"This is a great way for our family to give back to the community, and the Food Bank helps so many families that it is a wonderful charity to support," said Gail Villani, president of Gui's Lumber.
Her grandson also does community service work at the Food Bank for Canisius and participates in the school's annual food drive for the Food Bank.
"Our family donates turkeys, because the Food Bank has quite a distribution system where they take our donation and deliver it to a local agency for a family to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day," Kurt Jr. explained.
The Food Bank of WNY distributes more than 1 million pounds of food each month to 330 member agencies in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties. It serves 39,000 families, including 106,000 individuals, nearly 37,000 children and more than 11,000 seniors. The families and individuals have increased more than 7 percent since last year.