Last December, in a coffee-shop interview with Palisades entrepreneur Jim Hake, the Palisadian-Post learned about Hake’s newest business’a nonprofit organization called Spirit of America (SoA) that helps Americans serving abroad to improve the lives of people in need. Then a small network of about a half-dozen volunteers, SoA was working on fulfilling a request that involved sending musical instruments to the people of Khormal, Iraq, who suffered years of repression under the fundamentalist Islamic Group of Kurdistan. A Stanford Business School graduate with a knack for starting technology/Internet-related businesses, Hake told the Post he would take about nine months to build the organization and find a full-time executive director. ‘I want to hand over something that is reasonably well-cooked,’ he said. Well cooked? How about sizzling? Last Friday, four months after the Post published the article on SoA, The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial page feature entitled ‘Spirit of America: Here’s a Way You Can Help the Cause in Iraq.’ The article, by Dan Henninger, focused on Hake’s current project to raise $100,000 to help the Marines in Iraq establish Iraqi-owned TV stations in Al Anbar province, west of Baghdad. On Tuesday evening, April 20, Henninger appeared on PBS’s Nightly Business Report to speak about the enormous donor response. In the five days since his column appeared, SoA had received $764,408 from 4,088 donors. ‘The Marines are as stunned as I am,’ Hake said in a SoA newsletter he sent to the Post. ‘They are also developing ideas for the expansion of this initiative.’ Henninger’s article explained the initial request in greater detail: ‘The First Marine Expeditionary Force and U.S. Army in Iraq want to equip and upgrade seven defunct Iraqi-owned TV stations in Al Anbar province…so that average Iraqis have better televised information than the propaganda they get from the notorious Al-Jazeera.’ For this project, SoA’s $100,000 buy-list of equipment included digital video camcorders, desktop PCs for video editing, video editing software, televisions, 21-inch satellite dishes, KU-band universal transponders, satellite decoder/receivers, Philips audio/video selectors (4-in/2-out), VCRs (PAL and NTSC compatible), DVD players (multiregion compatible), step-down voltage converters (220-110) and lighting sets. Hake’s plan is for SoA to ship the supplies to the Marines in Iraq and get the TV stations on the air by the June 30 handover. ‘We are now focused on delivering the basic equipment requested for the first seven stations,’ Hake said Wednesday. ‘Thanks to [donors] we will have everything at Camp Pendleton by next Thursday (April 29). That delivery will make it 21 days from receiving the Marines’ request to fulfilling it. You can imagine what a response like this means to those on the front lines whose lives are at risk.’ On PBS Tuesday night, Henninger, noting that the response was huge, said: ‘Given a chance to help the Marines in a nonmilitary way, thousands gave money. Why? Partly, I think it’s the weird media age we live in. The closer events like this war are brought to us every night, the more disconnected they seem from our daily lives. In World War II we had a homefront. People helped in small ways. Today, we just sit home, staring helplessly at the soldiers on TV. ‘This little project’to build Iraqi TV stations’didn’t just open American wallets. It opened American hearts. It gave folks a chance to get off their hands and touch those American GI’s.’
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