I give a tip of the hat to Joe Scarborough, the cast of Morning Joe and their primary sponsor, Starbucks, for their efforts when the show aired in a volunteerism-focused visit to New Orleans on Friday (November 20). “Morning Joe’s” title sponsor and the show’s partner in its drive to spark volunteer efforts around the country presented a $125,000 check which boosted a donation total of more than $200,000 to John McDonogh High School – not counting the overtime donation of a new gym floor sparked by an on-air challenge by guest Digger Phelps!
Additional donations announced during the show came from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. (700 textbooks and professional development curriculum for teachers), the NBA and Spalding sporting-goods company (new hoops and backboards for the gym), NBC News (a free one-year subscription for the school to NBC News Archives on Demand and a donation to McDonogh’s college tour for ninth-graders).
The gym-floor donation came after Phelps Googled sports-floor companies and called one out on the air — Robbins Sports Surfaces of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Joe Covington Jr., of the Birmingham, Ala.-based Covington Flooring Co. – the regional distributor-installer for Robbins — happened to be in New Orleans on Friday for a business trip, and immediately began to field e mails and cell phone calls from people in his company and Robbins.
Covington arrived at John McDonogh, measured the space to be resurfaced, quickly consulted with a Robbins decision-maker, and the donation was decided.
Though “Morning Joe” had already left the air, Covington and Robbins meeting Phelps’ “Google and Guts” challenge so quickly prompted an unplanned live follow-up report — featuring Covington surrounded by the “Morning Joe” cast — during “Morning Meeting.”
“It was pretty wild,” said Covington, estimating that the value of the new floor will range from $80,000 to $150,000 depending on the material chosen for the job.
Then Saturday’s volunteerathon was dubbed “Brewing Together Day of Service.” (Starbucks recently rebranded one of its coffee lines to Gold Coast Blend, Morning Joe Edition.)
“I saw (President Obama) go down last month, for the first time, for a couple of hours before flying out to his fundraiser in San Francisco,” Scarborough said. “We had a discussion about it around the table, on the air. You sit there and wonder what else has to be done to draw focus on New Orleans and Mississippi. That wasn’t done over the past four years, and how could we still be – what’s the (Dick) Cheney word on Afghanistan? Dithering? – how could our federal government and state governments still be dithering four years later in reaching out and helping New Orleans and helping out Mississippi and helping everyone who was so dramatically impacted by Hurricane Katrina?
“So many people come on our show and talk about what they talk about in Washington and what they promise to do,” said “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, whose family named its Katrina rescue dog Cajun. “This is our way to say, ‘OK, you guys can keep talking, but anyone who actually wants to do something, come join us. Seriously, come out here. What you have to offer, offer. Let’s do it. Let’s help these people.’
I am pleased and surprised to see this group using their position and status to actually do something rather than just complain that the government isn’t doing enough. If more people in Washington, New York and Hollywood would follow the example set by the Morning Joe crew and Starbucks, the country would be much better off.