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‘A very cool use of social media’
Danny Parkins and Shane Riordan (670 The Score)
It was last Monday morning and Danny Parkins felt helpless.
The afternoon drive host on 670 The Score was home on paternity leave watching the number of coronavirus cases climb while local businesses went the other way. People were hurting and losing their jobs. There was little he could do about it.
Or was there? Parkins’ following on Twitter is north of 50,000 people and he had long thought about using it for good like Shea Serrano does. Serrano, the popular author and podcaster from Texas, has long crowd-sourced micro-charity efforts through his Twitter feed, a practice that recently earned him an article in the New York Times and a RT from Barack Obama.
Could Parkins do the same? There was only one way to find out.
“I just did it, honestly,” Parkins told me a week later. “I looked at my Venmo and I had $345 of my own money in there. I said I’m willing and able to donate this amount.
“So I took a screenshot of my account and sent out a tweet saying if you need help just ask, and if you’re feeling helpless over what to do, donate to me here and I’ll get it to the people who need help.”
It didn’t take long for Parkins’ tweet to gain traction. Money came in from people eager to help, money went out to people who suddenly couldn’t pay their bills.
Nine hours later, Parkins had already hit Venmo’s $3,000 weekly limit for sending money to others. That meant dozens of people had been helped, $50 to $100 at a time.
“It’s a very cool use of social media and I’m still a believer that social media can be a positive for the world,” Parkins said. “Sometimes it gets harder and harder to make that argument, but I think what Shea has done is just a cool exhibit A.”
Two days later, Shane Riordan decided he wanted in on the action too.
As The Score’s behind-the-scenes operations guru, Riordan doesn’t have quite the following of the more visible (audible?) Parkins. But he loves to mix it up on the medium and that engagement has built some strong bonds with his 5,000+ followers, some of which might not also follow Parkins.
“We put so much trash out onto our Twitter feeds and I’m absolutely insufferable on Twitter,” Riordan said. “So if we can use our platforms in a time like this to help those who don’t have a network and who are basically shit out of luck because of this thing, it’s the absolute least I can do.”
Over the past week, Parkins and Riordan have heard from many different people. A trio of waitresses whose restaurant had closed. An overworked nurse with three kids and a husband who’d just been laid off. A dog walker whose business evaporated the minute a majority of the city’s workforce relocated to its spare bedrooms.
One man requested $150 to help buy groceries for his employees. Another only needed $25 to avoid an overdraft charge. Many requests have been from the Chicago area, but social media’s amplified signal means they’ve come in from places like Iowa and Seattle, too. Parkins and Riordan said they’re not picky about where they send the money.
“I feel so hard for these single parents who might work at a hotel or as a bartender for 16-17 hour days,” Riordan said. “I could never imagine just having all of that ripped out from under you with no explanation as to when it’s going to return.”
There have been so many requests that Parkins and Riordan couldn’t handle it on their own bankroll. But the pair’s listeners and followers have more than stepped up, donating twenty dollars here or a fifty there. A few could only afford to donate $1 or $5 but felt strongly about being involved. Others donated hundreds, including David Hochberg, whose mortgage commercials you definitely recognize if you’ve ever listened to The Score.
Parkins hasn’t masked the identities of those he’s giving money to unless anonymity is requested. It’s his hope that others see his mentions and also send those people money, creating a snowball effect.
“The outpouring has been awesome,” Parkins said. “People have been great.”
Parkins’ limits on Venmo reset on Monday, which meant another $3,000 to distribute from the funds that had kept building from donors over the past week.
But it was already gone by late last night and Venmo’s limit put him on the sidelines again. While Venmo has lifted Serrano’s limits, Parkins isn’t quite in that territory just yet. He’s opened a Cash App account in an attempt to distribute more money while Riordan said he has paid some electric bills directly for people and also sent them groceries through Amazon.
The one downside, both say, is ferreting out some of the scammers and opportunists that have popped up as Serrano’s idea of hi-tech pass-the-hat has spread. Riordan said he’s already gotten multiple copy-and-paste sob stories from new Twitter accounts who forget they’ve already DMed him. Parkins said he tries to vet as much as possible.
Neither says the dishonesty will turn them off to the project.
“If I’m only getting ripped off by a few people and everyone else is getting truly helped, I’ll gladly do that,” Riordan said. “The rest of those people (who scam) can rot in hell.”
How long will they keep it up? Parkins says he’d like to keep it going through at least the start of baseball season, though no one’s sure exactly when that will be. Memorial Day? Fourth of July? Next — gulp — March?
Whatever the case, Parkins is glad he made the decision to follow Serrano’s lead.
“It is his idea, I am stealing it,” Parkins said. “But he’s a very charitable guy, I can’t imagine he’d be too upset about it.”
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