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High tech bidding for tonights telethon
Christian Worship Center volunteer Stephanie Baraja takes a pledge while working the phone bank during the opening night of the 31st annual Manteca/Lathrop Boys & Girls Club Telethon. It continues tonight from 4:30 to 11 p.m. on Comcast Channel 97. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
During last year’s Manteca/Lathrop Boys and Girls Club Telethon, Fred White didn’t like what he saw.

On the second day of the annual event that raises money to help provide services to more than 1,400 kids every year, White observed people waiting until the last minute before jotting down their bids in the silent auction area. That put those who bid first at a disadvantage and preventing the eBay-style bidding that made the Internet clearinghouse such a fruitful venture.

There had to be something, he thought, that he could do in order to make the process both honest and fruitful for the organization.

So he went out and created his own software applications designed to transition the entire event onto a digital platform for the first time in  the 30-plus year history of the organization.

Monday night marked the debut of the program that utilizes an Internet program with live television access, custom-made computer terminals complete with barcode scanners, and a unique platform that automates phone calls to those who have been electronically outbid.

The design, White says, will not only streamline the process but also create an environment that should help the Boys and Girls Club of Manteca/Lathrop reach the goal of $120,000 that it has set for 2010.

As of the end of the first night Monday, the club had raised $17,900 in pledges.

“They say that necessity is the mother of all invention,” White said. “With all of the technology that is available today, I thought that this would be something that would really help make the telethon something that people who are very adept to computers and other device would enjoy using.

“It also makes it possible to make donations from your credit cards and your accounts instantly without requiring somebody to manually take a check to the bank or call in a credit card for authorization. It’s something that should make things easier across the board.”

Inside of the Boys and Girls Club gymnasium, the tables that showcase the items in the silent auction that used to have slips of paper where people wrote down their bids now only show off the items and their tag number that can be used to electronically submit a bid from one of the six consoles available for anyone to use.

Cheryl Hernandez enjoyed the change, and believes that the technological advancements will help attract the attention of younger people who grew up using computers.

“I think that it’s a great change, and I know that my kids will think the same thing when they come down here later,” Hernandez said. “It brings the event into the modern era, and I would imagine that this would make tracking things and getting in touch with people much easier.”

And thanks to the additions that White has helped institute, playing the guessing game on the last night of the telethon isn’t necessary anymore.

Those who have been outbid will now receive text messages letting them know that they are no longer the high bidder – allowing them to resubmit a bid if desired and track the status of the event from the comfort of their own computer.

While coding the programs was time-consuming for the former Intel computer engineer with four kids, it was his community involvement and outreach that helped spur the idea and keep him dedicated to doing something that would help the youth of Manteca.

“I’ve been doing lots of things for church groups in town, and I realized that we’re good at doing little things that make a big difference,” White said. “Hopefully this will allow people to take a more hands- on approach to the telethon, and in the end, help the kids who utilize the services of the Boys and Girls Club.”

The Boys and Girls Club Telethon continues today from 4:30 to 11 p.m., and can be viewed on-line by downloading the new user interface at Comcast customers can also watch the telethon live on channel 97.