– Marcie Golgoski –
Executive Producer of Special Projects
WESH-TV Channel 2
Twenty minutes into the last hour of its Day of Giving programming on April 21, 2020, WESH-TV Channel 2 hit its target: $1.1 million donated in less than 24 hours. The event, benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, raised the most money ever in one day for the organization. It was also one of the largest amounts raised during the pandemic across all television stations nationwide owned by Hearst, WESH 2’s parent company. Behind the scenes and at the helm, where you can usually find her, was Executive Producer of Special Projects Marcie Golgoski, whose determination to connect members of her community guides incredible feats like this one.
In her 12 years at the station, she has overseen and coordinated stories informing Central Florida about everything from elections to natural disasters to local breaking news. But for Golgoski, her job as a teller of stories has always been inextricably linked to doing her part.
“We live here and are members of the community, but it takes more than that,” she said. “You have to want to bring people together. Our goal is to be the community’s resource for information. To be a good facilitator of that information, you have to be involved.”
It was that desire, paired with her healthy curiosity, that led Golgoski to work in journalism. In the two decades since she began, she has worked up and down the Eastern Seaboard, from her home state of New York to Baltimore to Washington, D.C., before landing in the welcome warmth of Central Florida at WESH 2.
Since 2012, Golgoski has also been running a 35-year institution at the station: the Share Your Christmas Food Drive in partnership with Second Harvest. Each year, beginning on Giving Tuesday and lasting for two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the station has coordinated and promoted the drive. But it was Golgoski’s knack for asking the right questions that would kick-start its second life.
“We reevaluated: How do we make our goal match how people want to give? That meant modernizing how we are collecting donations with an online giving component and changing our model a bit. The goal was to bring the program to a place where we could stabilize the food drive component but also grow the monetary donation side of things through collaboration.” – Marcie Golgoski
Partnering with many of their existing sales clients, team members at WESH 2 reached out to begin leveraging those relationships. For a day, WESH 2 would set up a food drive at each business, broadcasting live. In return, that organization would make a donation. For those who couldn’t host WESH 2 at their location, there was another option: They would challenge schools to put on their own food drives, matching a dollar for every pound of food they raised up to $10,000.
There was an added benefit to that option, Golgoski said: “It was also a great way to give our schoolkids and our business community partners a connection and a way to come together.”
In 2020, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem of hunger. As people began losing their jobs, many found themselves suddenly without the means to feed themselves and their families, and the need for food increased in Central Florida by 90%. Meanwhile, consumers who had money began panic buying in excess, leaving grocery stores with no food left over to donate. Second Harvest was forced to buy what it needed to feed the hungry. The food bank’s costs were soaring.
In response, Golgoski organized the Day of Giving Fund Drive in April 2020, with the goal of raising $1 million by the end of the month. Beginning on April 21, the station worked with partners of Second Harvest that would allow WESH 2 to film from their locations and tell the stories of the people who turned to them — all while making sure they responsibly handled social distancing and hygiene rules, keeping everyone safe.
The broadcast began that day at 5 a.m., live from Second Harvest, and then from the distribution sites themselves. Videos showed people lining up for blocks, shared their stories, and encouraged viewers to donate by phone or online. After nearly 14 hours of programming, WESH 2 reached its goal of $1.1 million.
It’s the stories, Golgoski believes, that are the catalysts for such incredible achievements, and she takes care with each one she tells.
“I’m always struck by people who trust us to tell their story,” she said. “They are opening their heart and their soul on some really tough issues. There is no greater honor, especially when the stories are so deeply personal.” – Marcie Golgoski