By Sudha Kamath
They usually spar on air. But on Friday, Dec. 6, two WGMU Radio talk show hosts set aside their opinions for five hours to raise money for a local charity. George Mason University sophomores John Hill and Rohan Ramesh, hosts of “Take it to the Hill,” led the station’s first radiothon to raise money for Our Daily Bread. In 2014, ODB will mark its 30th year serving Fairfax County’s neediest residents with the mission of “guiding our neighbors toward self-sufficiency.”
“On our show, we normally debate the issues,” says Hill. “But today, this is something we can both agree on – helping people in our community who are in need.”
Hill and Ramesh, both 19, have been friends since attending middle school and high school together in Ashburn, Va. They were joined on the air for the radiothon by their producer, Ryan Cerny, who’s been friends with Hill since elementary school. All three sophomores are roommates on George Mason’s Fairfax Campus.
Their radiothon raised nearly $400 in donations and collected 22 pounds of nonperishable food for ODB.
“We were very pleased,” says Jennifer Rose, the charity’s development manager. “John and Rohan were an absolute delight to work with. I was most impressed with their drive, initiative and commitment to make this event successful. We definitely have something to build upon for next year.”
Radiothon guests were Lisa Whetzel, ODB’s executive director; David Bulova and Barbara Comstock, Fairfax County delegates; and Jordan Foster, Mason student body president. Also lending his voice to the cause was City of Fairfax Mayor R. Scott Silverthorne.
“We had a positive conversation,” says Silverthorne of his interview, which aired live on radio and online. “We talked about the importance of serving those in need in the community. It’s terrific [WGMU] chose a local organization to help. Even if people can’t donate today, there are three ways to give year-round: money, and food, goods and clothing, and time.”
Silverthorne finds empowering neighbors is the key “to creating an environment in which people can be lifted up.”
ODB began in 1984 as a temporary homeless shelter in several churches in the area. Now it serves the homeless, and in increasing numbers families and individuals who may have a roof over their heads, but live from paycheck to paycheck.
Donations also can be made at 4080 Chain Bridge Road in Farifax, or by calling 703-273-8829. ODB’s staff, and more than 1,300 volunteers, provided temporary or emergency food assistance to nearly 300 households in Fairfax last year. They also helped almost 700 people attain financial literacy through classes, clinics and mentoring. Nearly 800 children received back-to-school assistance.
The most-needed food items are canned chicken or meat; canned fruit in its own juice; cereal; cooking oil; boxed dinner kits; boxed mashed potatoes; parmesan cheese; pizza kits; lunch snacks, such as crackers and pretzels; and grocery-store gift cards worth $10-$20.
Other items include cleaning supplies, deodorant, diapers, feminine hygiene products, laundry detergent, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo and wipes.
The holidays, of course, prove to be even busier. This season, ODB was referred by schools, family services offices and others to help 3,500 households from Thanksgiving through Christmas.
“An estimated 76,000 people in Fairfax County alone don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” says Jennifer Rose, ODB’s development manager. “Often college students live in a bubble. But we’re very excited today about the support we’re receiving from George Mason University’s young people in this partnership.”