Saunders: Heat and fear deal blow to storm aid

Staff WriterAugust 9, 2011 

Jim Bailey, bless his heart, is definitely one of those glass-half-full dudes.

That's obvious even when the glass is way less than half full.

Bailey coordinated theComeUnityNow festivalJuly 30 in downtown Raleigh to raise money for still-struggling tornado victims.

He'd hoped to be able to turn over $100,000 to two organizations that provide relief for victims.

When I talked to him Monday, the festival had taken in $21,000.

Was ComeUnityNow, as well as the city-sponsored RiseUp Raleigh festival weeks earlier, a victim of charity-fatigue - you know, what happens when people feel they are being constantly besieged to open their purses to help others? Did the festival fall prey to a slumping economy? Or was it a victim of the same thing that put a lot of Raleigh residents behind the eight ball in the first place - the weather?

Yep, yep and yep, Bailey said. Only difference, Bailey said, was the weather system that kept attendance at the daylong festival to about 3,000 - organizers had expected as many as 10,000 - wasn't tornadoes uprooting trees and destroying homes, but stultifying heat.

Eliciting a discouraging word from Bailey is about as likely as getting a professional rassler to say he doubts he'll win his coming Texas Steel Cage match. But even Bailey sounded downcast when he said, "We anticipated greater numbers than that. We think the weather had a lot of impact. We had thunderstorms and triple-digit temperatures.

"We're seeing that a lot of people who normally contribute are afraid for themselves," he added. "That's understandable. But there are people out there who are really, really in need. We can't let up just because we're afraid for ourselves."

It didn't take long for Bailey to turn that figurative frown upside down. Why, in no time at all, he was pointing out - and it didn't seem like mere spin - why he still thinks ComeUnityNow succeeded despite the relatively meager turnout and take.

"We're satisfied with what happened," he said. "We had a great festival, lots of family fun, a diverse crowd, and we raised a lot of awareness of the ongoing needs of tornado victims.

"We see this as the beginning of something. We put out a call for bands and volunteers. We heard from over 600 bands" and several hundred volunteers. "From my perch, that is the most powerful thing to see - the power of volunteerism."

Yeah, but nothing beats cold, hard cash when it comes to helping people in need. Many of us are hurting and, as Bailey noted, afraid for ourselves. But we're far ahead of many people whose lives were upended by the tornadoes.

Even if the heat July 30 kept you at home, you can still come to the aid of neighbors in need. If you want to help, visit or mail checks to 1319 Capital Blvd., Raleigh, N.C. 27603.

Guess what? Ink pens work in an air-conditioned office - and your contributions will work in triple-digit temperatures. Or tornadoes.

Tell Barry what you think at 919-836-2811 or

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