The “Today” show’s Al Roker usually does his national weather reporting from New York, but this week he’ll be experiencing it coast to coast as he hits the road for the program’s eighth annual “Lend a Hand Today” charity event.
Starting this morning in L.A., Roker will be in a different city each day this week to surprise a local charity organization with much-needed supplies and donations to improve their communities.
“This country, in a sense, was built on charity and volunteerism,” Roker said. “A lot of these places . . . are the ones that are on the front lines every day.”
Other cities on his itinerary are Portland, Ore., Galveston, Texas, Little Rock, Ark., and Charlotte, N.C.
What still makes “Lend a Hand Today” special for Roker is seeing how giving people can be. “There isn’t enough money to go around as far as the government is concerned,” he said. "[But] these are neighbors helping neighbors.”
For this year’s expedition, the show has raised almost $1.8 million in donations, the largest amount since the event’s introduction in 2002.
With so many cities and charities to choose from, the selection process is “sort of like a jigsaw puzzle,” Roker said. “It’s one of those things where we try to mix it up.”
L.A. was previously chosen for the event’s first tour, but as one of the largest cities in America it was selected for a second time this year. “L.A. is a pretty big town, and a lot of people need these supplies and help,” Roker said.
Details on the specific charities to be visited have been kept secret, with the intention of surprising employees with truckloads of essential items and cash donations needed to sustain the organizations’ mission of helping their communities.
Past recipients have included children’s charities, nonprofit music institutions, “at-risk” youth programs and low-income and public housing organizations.
The selected charity in L.A. was to be unveiled on today’s broadcast at 8 a.m.
The “Today” show kicked off the series to help lesser-known charities that were struggling after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when monetary donations were diverted to 9/11-related charities, Roker said.
“Small charities were suffering, understandably . . . and we thought, ‘Why don’t we do something where we can highlight charities across America?’ ” he said.
“Lend a Hand Today” has proved invigorating for everyone who’s worked on it, Roker said.
“The faith in the spirit of people helping people is renewed,” he said. “You can feel jaded sitting in one place, [then you] go out and see what’s going on and what people are doing, and your faith is restored.”