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During the Holidays, Local Stations Give Back

WGNO reporter Kenny Lopez says his favorite part of the holidays is “12 Days of Giving,” a series of reports that follow him as he performs random acts of kindness around the New Orleans community.

“My producers joke with me that this can be my schtick,” Lopez told TVSpy. “They say this is my thing now. I would love to do it every single Christmas.”

WGNO’s “12 Days of Giving” is one of many examples of local stations increasing charitable efforts around the holidays. There are toy drives and coat drives, telethons, visits to local hospitals. And there are more unique initiatives: KELO, the CBS affiliate in Sioux Falls, teamed up with a local radio station to sponsor “Drive Thru Difference Day,” encouraging people stopping at local drive-thrus to buy coffee or a meal for the person in line behind them.

WJAR kicked off its “Season of Giving” campaign to benefit the Make-a-Wish foundation with a telethon earlier this month. The Providence NBC affiliate raised $12,000 — which included a $5,000 donation from the station (pictured)  — and more than one million unused airline miles for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

“It felt like it was a perfect fit for the Christmas holiday season,” WJAR news director Chris Lanni told TVSpy. “It worked really well for us as a station to give back during this time to a cause that specifically helps children.”

What starts as an idea sparked by one person often spreads through the newsroom quickly. Lanni said WJAR raises awareness for the cause by profiling six local children through the Make-a-Wish foundation.

“Once you sit down and meet a family like that and tell their story, it impacts you and it touches you,” Lanni said. “By keeping everyone informed and involved in the cause, it elevates the entire newsroom’s awareness and opens their eyes to the need that’s out there.”

“I’m a one-man band reporter, but a lot of my co-workers believe in my idea,” Lopez said. “They’re helping me shoot the stories so I can get more interaction with me and the people in the community.”

WBRZ, the NBC affiliate in Baton Rouge, partners with a local recycling council for an annual post-holiday drive to collect used electronics. The station began the event, which is in its fifth year, at the suggestion of the director of engineering’s wife.

“The entire station gets involved,” Joe Gutierrez, WBRZ’s special projects and marketing coordinator, told TVSpy. “The sales department finds a sponsor. The morning meteorologist spearheads the event and promotes it during weathercasts. Everyone helps.”

Last year, the used electronics drive collected 36 tons of electronics, which were then wiped clean of any personal data and recycled, donated to schools or re-sold at a discounted price.

“It’s just one way we can help the environment, help the community and help other organizations that can’t afford brand-new equipment,” Guitterez said.

Lopez, who has paid for a stranger’s gas, given out compliments to people waiting in line at the Post Office and delivered flowers to widows at a nursing home, says he hopes his charitable efforts stay with people people beyond the holidays.

“The whole reason I wanted to do it is that I want to show people that you can do nice, random acts of kindness for people, any time of year,” Lopez said. “I want to inspire people to do something simple.”

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