The Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread program began one cold winter night in January 1988, when the nonprofit loaded up an Emergency Disaster Services truck with 75 sandwiches, soup and hot chocolate and parked at the corner of Kercheval and St. Jean to directly serve Detroit’s homeless population.

Fast forward 32 years and the program today serves more than 1.4 million meals annually through corps community centers and via dedicated Bed & Bread trucks that make 57 stops along 180 miles every day of the year, serving meals in Detroit’s most depressed areas. The program has also grown to provide more than 131,000 nights of shelter annually across metro Detroit.

Sole funding for this feeding and sheltering lifeline comes from the annual Bed & Bread Club Radiothon in late February, which Franco has proudly partnered with The Salvation Army for more than a dozen years in executing and continually enhancing.

The Bed & Bread Club Radiothon was born a month after that first frigid night when Dick Purtan and Purtan’s People took to the airwaves in support of the cause. Looking for an impactful way to celebrate a broadcasting milestone, Purtan and his team zeroed in on The Salvation Army and in that first dedicated four-hour program raised an impressive $15,000 from faithful listeners. Due to the success of the inaugural fundraiser, they shifted the Radiothon to an entire day, which has raised more than $36 million in the broadcast’s 32-year history.

Through media relations and advertising, social media, broadcast planning, donor support and a myriad of other programming and promotional contributions, Franco has helped increase visibility for the Radiothon as its grown from its original location at Oakland Mall, to Emagine Theaters and, in 2019, from the vibrant atrium of downtown Detroit’s One Campus Martius.

Franco has also played an integral role in coordinating Radiothon interviews with Bed & Bread beneficiaries, local and national celebrities and community and business leaders, as well as stage manage the broadcasts alongside the crews of WOMC initially and, following Purtan’s retirement, the professionals at News/Talk 760 WJR, who generously picked up the broadcast in 2011. We also work closely The Salvation Army and Radiothon corporate supporters in fulfilling sponsorship benefits, especially third year presenting sponsor Ford Motor Company Fund.

As satisfying as it is to help The Salvation Army produce a successful Radiothon each February, the Franco team finds the most gratification year ‘round in telling Bed & Bread beneficiaries’ stories and helping provide the media and community and business leaders the eye-opening experience of serving Detroiters from the Bed & Bread trucks.

Always at the center of Franco’s work with the Bed & Bread program are the words of Ford Motor Company Fund President Jim Vella, who has frequently ridden the trucks, “Let’s not forget the powerful impact a meal can have on someone who is hungry.”

Pat Adanti-Joy, APR is the vice president at Franco. You can reach her at joy@franco.com.