Multiple Choices Millions of Dollars

One trivia show host and a collective of 417-land businesspeople are answering a tough question: How can we help those in need?

Written by Claire Porter | Illustration by Morgan Church

May 2016

Each week on his radio show, Eldon Combs quizzes callers  to his radio show on pop culture, sports and 417-land lore, but this question-master isn’t easily stumped. As organizer of the volunteer and networking group 100 Fold, Combs is often asked how he and 100 Fold members can help those in need, and without hesitation, Combs always finds an answer thanks to the pooled resources, connections and donations of the group’s 80 or so members. 

The members hadn’t always started out with this charitable mission. Combs first gathered the group after he left a sales job to start his radio show, The Guide One Insurance Trivia Show on JOCK 98.7 FM on Fridays from 2 to 3 p.m. Various local businesses were involved in the show, and eventually, the people involved (mostly advertisers or sponsors of the show) arranged periodic meetings to network and catch up with each other. Seven years ago at one of those meetings, member Judy Bilyeu told the group about a local family who had fallen on hard times—a car accident left the family with medical bills, no car and only one income—and the team mobilized. Each member was able to pitch in somehow, whether it was as small as donating $20 out of their own pockets or as big as making some calls and then acquiring and repairing a vehicle to donate to the family. Combs knew he had something special. “We found out that day that everyone had a heart for giving, and we’ve been giving ever since,” he says. And with that, 100 Fold was formed.

True to its name, 100 Fold relies on the strength of its numbers. The idea behind the group is that, with enough people, even a small donation, service or contribution by each member adds up. (In fact, the group’s motto is, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” 

“When each of us does what we can individually, then collectively we can make significant changes in someone’s life,” says Bilyeu, who has been a member since the group started. 

Many of 100 Fold’s members are business owners and can therefore pitch in by donating restaurant gift cards, hotel rooms, mechanic services—you name it, they’ve got it covered. By contributing these varied donations, the members of 100 Fold are able to help those who are in need of a hand but aren’t quite covered by existing charities and organizations. For example, someone who is struggling financially might need help with utility bills during the winter, or someone who recently lost a job might not be able to afford the payments on the car necessary to get him or her to a job interview. These aren’t people who would be seeking a spot at a homeless shelter or even necessarily utilizing a food pantry, but their needs exceed what a church group or small organization could provide. “We have no idea what level of help they need,” Combs says. “We just know they need help.” And 100 Fold provides it. 

One of the group’s more elaborate ways of helping is called a Weekend of Blessings, which they try to do each quarter. Members contribute everything needed for an all-inclusive, full weekend of fun to help a struggling family with kids escape the constant stress and reminders of a difficult situation. The weekend includes hotel rooms, three meals each day, transportation, gift cards or cash and family activities such as trips to the zoo or movie passes. 

Each action starts with an email from Combs telling the group about a person or family who needs something. “I get a lot of credit, but I have nothing without these people,” Combs says. He says he never asks anyone individually to give; the group gives willingly—and quickly. Bilyeu notes that quite often, the needs of the family or individual have been met within hours after Combs’s email has been sent. “A lot of this is due to the power of the Internet and social media,” Bilyeu says, and she notes that’s the key in getting a similar organization off the ground. With a start that straightforward, it’s relatively easy to gather your own group to start giving back in your own ways, and that is Combs’s goal. “If 100 Fold had one wish, they’d hope that this model of everyone having a small part and making a big difference would inspire everyone to act,” he says. If all it takes is an email to get started, what’s stopping you from pressing send?