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Small donors make big impact for Boys & Girls
Councilman Steve DeBrum checks out the bid items in the maze of Comcast cameras. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The 30th annual Manteca-Lathrop Boys and Girls Club telethon might very well turn out to be The Telethon That Could in the annals of the organization.

It isn’t the best of times, as everybody knows with the current economic crisis worldwide. But it isn’t the worst of times either, as noted by many of those who worked on the telephones the first day of the annual telethon Monday night.

Based on observations made by several of the volunteers, 2009 is the year of the mighty dollar, the year when the buck makes its loudest and strongest bang. It’s the small donations that will make the telethon a big success this time, was their consensus.

As host Rex Osborn said, quoting Lathrop Rotary volunteer George Jackson, “The little fishes are just as valuable as the big fishes.”

“They’re doing the right approach by asking small donations,” Jackson said of one of the strategies put to work by some of the volunteers Monday night.

He said he did not want to hit the people that he called really hard, “because everybody has had some hard times this year,” he said.

“But a bunch of small fish will feed the world. Everybody can do something,” added Jackson, a Manteca Realtor who is now in his third year as a telethon volunteer and a former board member of the Lathrop Boys and Girls Club.

His efforts Monday night brought in a total pledge of $350.

Among the Lathrop Rotary volunteers, Susan Dell’Osso snagged the highest single donation for the night. The River Islands at Lathrop project manager had former four-time Lathrop mayor and former Manteca Boys and Girls Club board president Steve McKee pledge $100. Her total take for the evening: $400.

The bragging rights though among the Lathrop Rotarians went to Ramon Batista who collected a pledge of $450 in the three-hour time period.

“I think it went well for a Monday night, especially with the economy, so hopefully we’ll break the $100,000 mark,” said an optimistic Chuck Crutchfield, the former longtime director of the Boys and Girls Club.

Manteca has seen tough economic periods before, and each time the community has pulled through for the youth program even with small-change donations of $10 or even $5 bills.

“Every dollar we can raise is a dollar that can go to the program,” Crutchfield said.

Board member Bob Gonzales was just as optimistic.

“The community has always been there for the Boys and Girls Club,” he said.

Sure, this year’s telethon fund-raiser is not going to be like others in the past because of these hard economic times with the collapse of the real estate market and rising unemployment, current board president Gonzales said.

“We’ll just have to work a little harder to raise the money” needed to continue to operate the Manteca and Lathrop youth programs, Gonzales said. “You have to because the kids are depending on it.”

The Manteca branch alone has 1,500 youth members, while the Lathrop program located at Lathrop Elementary School has 250 active members.

Making a pledge is just one of several ways that people who care for the future of today’s youth can contribute to this philanthropic cause. They can also bid for scores of collectibles and big-ticket items. There are two auctions or bidding opportunities where they can snag some rare must-haves and one-of-a-kind memory-makers. One is the silent auction taking place in the Boys and Girls Club gym. The hundreds of items up for bid include autographed photographs of such personalities as former President Jimmy Carter, tennis great Andre Agassi, actor John Travolta, golf legend Arnold Palmer, and car racer Richard Petty.

On the blackboard, being flashed on your Comcast Cable Channel 97, is a laundry list of live auction items that includes several “firsts” for the telethon such as a double date with Manteca Fire Captain David Marques and firefighter John Viss, a two-minute shopping spree at Grocery Outlet, and a Christmas package “snow play day” in Lathrop – you read that right – specifically, at the Dell’ Osso Farms which is offering this holiday thrill for the first time.

There’s even a mint set of highly collectible “I Love Lucy” dolls in their original boxes. Osborn said this set item was received as a donation “at the last minute” just before the start of the telethon Monday night.

Crutchfield’s advice to those taking part in the auctions: “Bid often and bid high.”

Tonight’s telethon will continue from 4:30 to 11 p.m. To make a pledge, call 825-4707. To place a bid, call 823-9430.

To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail or call (209) 249-3536.