There’s some pretty hectic social media-with-a-cause activity going on in Chicago today.

In case you hadn’t heard, the Chicago Red Cross has had a telethon going since 5 a.m., which will continue until 11 p.m., to raise funds for Haiti. They’ve been promoting it pretty aggressively via both MSM as well as social media, integrating various outposts, such as Twitter and YouTube very well. You can donate here, or check out their live blog here.

I love when non-profit organizations are smart about their use of media to further their mission.

But I love it even more when a single person does it.

If you’re plugged into the PR/SM bubble on Twitter (and I say that affectionately, because it’s a bubble I enjoy bouncing around in), you’ll know Kate Zimmer, whose zest for life and PR smarts shine through those 140 characters, regardless of which pickle she says she’s in at any given time.

Pretty much single-handedly, Kate has pulled together an amazingly collaborative event in Chicago, entitled “Wake of the Quake,” and which is aptly hashtagged in the social media sphere as #chihelpshaiti.

It kicked off January 18 and will run through the 24th; during this time, participating restaurants in the Chicago area will enable patrons to add a donation of $1 (or more) to their checks to support the Heartland Alliance (and yes, it’s a tried and tested charity, I know I’ve been making a lot of noise about that lately). And tonight, they’re also holding a fundraiser and after-party to keep the goodwill and, hopefully, dollars flowing.

Using social media to do this is no longer ingenious; but I do think it takes tremendous strength of spirit and staying power to be the primary driving force behind it, and pull off an event that is clearly well-organized – look at the number of restaurants participating! – and is bringing the community together for an extremely deserving cause.

I asked Kate to tell me why she did this, and this is what she said, via email:

I had the idea as I was watching the news and seeing the Twitter feed about #Haiti early Thursday morning, one week ago. I really felt that someone should do something to help raise money for a local charity that is contributing to the Haiti relief efforts in a big way and, with the influence that some of us have on Twitter, why not use that as the method to motivate people to gather together to organize, produce and promote a local event? Everything was done via social and electronic communications!  The Chicago Twitter #ChiHelpsHaiti team didn’t even talk on the phone until 9 hours after the initial tweets and DMs went out!

Kate’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by the media. The Chicago Tribune picked up on it last week, check out this great write-up in Chicago’s Philanthropy Examiner, and it’s listed not once but three times on (which is powered by Crain’s).

I hope to catch up with Kate in the next couple of weeks to see if this drive was a success (and how she measures success), and what lessons we can learn as PR professionals from her (though I think a few are already self-evident).

For now, though, I just want to take my hat off to Kate. Ms. Zimmer, I’m proud to call you “friend.”

I’d love it if you joined me in trying to help Kate; there are so many ways to do it. You could leave a comment for Kate below, help her spread the word on Twitter or Facebook, blog about it or donate to the Alliance’s emergency fund for Haiti. If you’re in the Chicago area, showing up at tonight’s event or eating at one of the participating restaurants. We’d be so grateful.