***Phone lines are now closed. As of Tuesday, Sept. 5, a total of $78,926 has been raised. Thank you to everyone who donated!
If you were unable to get through Thursday evening, you may donate directly to the local American Red Cross office by calling 330-392-2551.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Hundreds of you donated tens of thousands of dollars for the victims of Hurricane Harvey Thursday evening.
“The response was overwhelming. It’s the first time we ever shut down the phone system,” said WKBN 27 First News General Manager Dave Coy.
Leaders at WKBN and the American Red Cross both used the same word to describe your outpouring of support during the Help from the Valley telethon — “unbelievable.”
“The public responds, people respond, and companies respond. It’s a good day,” Coy said.
In all, more than 2,000 of you tried to call to donate but because so many called so fast, only about 400 calls could be answered.
“We blew up your entire phone system here. We were told there were over 300 phone calls trying to come in at the same time, which is absolutely awesome,” said Karen Conklin, with the Red Cross.
Coy said that kind of response to a phone bank is unprecedented.
“We’ve used this system 10, 15, 20 times for different projects and we never fathomed that we’d get that kind of response.”
It all started before the phone lines even opened. Sam Covelli, with Covelli Enterprises, offered to match your donations dollar-for-dollar to encourage people to act.
“We felt that we wanted to be part of it. We wanted to start out with a $10,000 donation that we feel could help raise money in the community in a matching fund,” he said.
Then Boak & Sons Construction came on board with another $10,000 match.
Sam Boak knows firsthand what the victims are facing.
“Start all over again and a lot of them don’t have insurance that covers it, so they’re gonna be looking at, ‘Where do I start from here?’ But all the goods that are in the house, too,” he said.
Soon, Vallourec Star also stepped up — again, with a $10,000 matching donation.
The company has a very personal connection to the victims.
“We make the pipe here in Youngstown and we send some of it to Houston to be finished,” Judson Wallace said. “We’ve got about 200 employees down there and as far as we know right now, there’s about 30 of them that have been completely flooded out.”
Braking Point Recovery also chipped in with another $10,000.
Even the Red Cross was shocked by the outpouring of support.
“This is why I love calling the Valley home. Whether it’s a local disaster — like a house fire or an apartment fire when people say, ‘What can we do to help?’ — to something to help complete strangers, we’re blessed here,” Conklin said.
If you weren’t able to get through on Thursday, the Red Cross is going to keep the drive going on Friday. It will have volunteers on hand answering the phone to take your donations — just call its office at 330-392-2551.