The Other Side of a Telethon

Many years ago my troop of Boy Scouts was volunteered to help out at a telethon call office in an insurance office building floating somewhere in skyline in Newark, N.J.

We had all seen telethons on TV so we expected to see celebrities singing their latest hits and the top comedians making the viewers go to the phone and pledge some bucks.

We knew from watching that every once in a while the cameras would pan the crowd of workers, the plain folks on the phones and then go to the tote board to check out the latest total of pledges.

We figured we'd go down to Newark and help answer the phones and take pledges and, who knows, maybe meet a celebrity or two?
When we 'green monsters' descended upon the rows of tables and phones and blinking white lights a few of us rushed to pick up the phone so no one would miss a pledge and were immediately scolded and shooed away from the ringing phones, corralled in a corner and read the riot act (no pun intended) and told to stay off the phones and do as we're told, which was to collect the completed pledges filled out by the folks on the phones and make sure they all had pencils, forms and carbon paper.

At the end of the day, when the show was virtually over, we got to answer the phones. We couldn't tell people we were in Newark.

We couldn't tell them there were no celebrities to talk with.

We got to help clean up the litter left behind by hundreds of volunteers manning the phone banks on a Saturday-to-Sunday night telethon.

We never saw any celebrities you saw on TV, only on the monitors.

There weren't any cameras in Newark.

In the lobby of the big building, maybe it was Fidelity Bank or Prudential Insurance, there was a 4-foot-by-4-foot-by-4-foot cardboard box they used to collect paperback books to send to GIs in Vietnam.

The box was pretty full.

Copyright © 2006 by Anthony Buccino, all rights reserved.

United Cerebral Palsy

Musculadystrophypy Association

Boy Scouts of America

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