While most people may recognize Dennis Anderson as the radio host and music producer at Hot 101.7, hosting the daily evening show from 7 p.m. to midnight, many may not realize the impact Anderson has made on the local community, both in the past and even more so now in the wake of the devastating fires in the North Bay.
Even though Anderson currently lives in Santa Rosa, he lived in Rohnert Park for over 30 years and graduated from Rancho Cotate High School and still considers himself to be a Rohnert Park local. Having a special fondness for the town, he and his wife hope to move back to the area in the future.
Anderson first founded Anderson Entertainment, a DJ and photo booth company, in 1983. Since then, he has grown the company and provides his services to weddings, parties and other events all over the Western United States. Besides acting as DJ for events, he added karaoke services and event equipment rentals and helps customers book live musicians and bands.
Through his contacts, equipment and emcee abilities, as well as his passion for helping out in the local community, it came naturally for Anderson to help DJ or emcee for various community and children’s events and he has always generously donated, or deeply discounted, his time and services for these great causes. From Walk-a-thon fundraisers at local schools including Lawrence Jones Middle School, Riebli and Mark West Elementary schools, and many others, to the Rohnert Park Founder’s Day, to other fundraisers at Twin Oaks and Ranchin’ Vets, Anderson has continually offered his services. Most recently, Rancho Cotate High School had to move the date of their homecoming celebration due to the fires and reached out to Anderson to help them find another DJ on short notice. He was able to find them a DJ at the last minute.
“I feel that since the community gives to me, I give back to them,” says Anderson. “Since the community has always given to me in terms of weddings, and corporate parties, and things like that, I always give back. It’s part of my thing.”
As the whole county was dealing with the effects of the devastating fires in the North Bay, Anderson sprang into action, using the power of social media to get the word out about everything from shelters, to air quality, to updates on fire containment. Because of this online activity, many people also contacted him to get the word out about specific needs and he was able to use his contacts to quickly try to resolve those problems. For example, after hearing that first responders do not get a lot of fresh food when they are out in the field, he coordinated getting 400 sandwiches and salads donated from Safeway which he brought to the crews stationed at the fairgrounds. Likewise, food banks needed more fresh food for shelters. Costco donated over 30 cases of leafy greens that he delivered to the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
Having a press pass also allowed him access behind evacuation lines, to both deliver food where needed and also to help document if homes were still standing in certain burned out areas.
“People contacted me through social media and on top of that, I also work in the media so I had my press pass and could actually go in and deliver these goods,” says Anderson. “I also wanted everyone to be informed. I used the power of my press pass and my credentials to go behind evacuation lines and document homes. There were a lot of rumors on Facebook so all I did was take my live video from Facebook and documented Skyhawk, Oakmont, Wild Oak and Bennett Valley. I went through those areas and showed what was not burned down. I would date it and time it so people, if they did share it, knew which areas were fine.”
Like many others who helped in the wake of the fire devastation in whatever way they could, whether it be making food, volunteering at a shelter, or housing evacuees, Anderson used his power of communication to help in the way he could best.
“It’s hard to foresee something like this happening,” says Anderson. “You always think something like this isn’t going to happen to your community, and when it does, if you’re able to do it, you just get up and do it. That’s how I felt the whole time. I couldn’t sleep. The first few days I didn’t know where I was going with this or what I could do. But I knew my job is to inform people – that’s what I do and that’s what I felt I needed to do.”
Currently Anderson is reaching out via social media and his radio show to find a family who can use a car, which was donated by one of his family members. He is coordinating with several local businesses such as an auto parts store and an auto body shop to fix up and detail the car, a Ford Explorer, and would like it to be donated to someone who lost everything and doesn’t have insurance or FEMA – someone truly in need.
“That’s always been my thing in my person,” says Anderson. “If someone is hurt, I’m going to help them. If there’s a fight between people, I feel that I need to get in between it and tell them to stop. It’s something I’ve always had.”