Annual telethon continues to grow

Arts & Entertainment Community Featured

The Pictou County Christmas Fund is continuing a long-standing tradition of providing a traditional Christmas to families in need.

The dedicated volunteers who form this non-profit group are currently working on this year’s telethon which will take place Sunday, Nov. 25 at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre in Pictou. It will be broadcast simultaneously from 1 to 7 p.m. on EastLink TV and 94.1 East Coast FM radio.

The event, which began in the mid-1950s, was originally known as the Christmas Daddies and, according to the organization’s history, was run by the New Glasgow Lions Club for the first 20 years until 1974.

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At that time, Bob Curley, general manager of K-Vision Services Limited, came up with the idea of holding a telethon at the company’s studio on Frasers Mountain. A committee was organized to produce the first “Christmas Daddy” show on community TV. The committee was comprised of Bob Curley, Bob Partington and Doug MacNeil. During the first telecast, held on a Wednesday evening in December, local entertainers performed and viewers phoned in pledges. More than $5,000 was raised to help more than 100 families in need.

From the very beginning, Pictou County media and talented individuals and groups have volunteered their time and talent to make the show a success and raise funds so families in need can enjoy a Christmas dinner.

This year is no exception. Organizers are finalizing plans for this year’s show which is just weeks away.

The fundraiser has grown from humble beginnings.

In 1976, the committee decided to reach out to a wider audience and include those who did not have access to cable TV. Rod Mackey, program director at CKEC radio station, was contacted and the decision was made to broadcast the show simultaneously on K-Vision and CKEC. The date of the show was moved to a Sunday afternoon in late November to allow more time to collect pledges, process applications for assistance and disburse the food vouchers.

The committee then expanded to include members from The Pictou Advocate and Maritime Tel & Tel in addition to those from K-Vision, CKEC and The Evening News. In the early years, the Salvation Army and the Council of Churches shared the responsibility of accepting and processing applications for assistance and disbursement.

In 1981, the organizing committee became incorporated as ‘Pictou County Christmas Fund’. From this point on, receipts for income tax purposes were issued to all those who honoured their pledges.

The newly named committee became more structured with volunteers from other community organizations and businesses.

In 1983 the event moved to the deCoste Entertainment Centre. This enabled the public to view the live production in a theatrical setting. More volunteers were added and a variety of entertainment was now possible.

Over the years, the Pictou County Christmas Fund increased its objective and each year, the total amount pledged exceeded the committee’s objective. This is still the case today.

“Last year we raised well over $80,000,” lauds past board chair Debbie VanSickle, who has been on the board for more than 20 years.

Monique Sobey chairs the telethon again this year and laughs, “I’m a newbie at 13 years on the board.”

Most of the committee members have been dedicated to the cause for many years. There is only a handful of board members but Sobey says there is literally “a hundred volunteers” who work to make the show a success.

“It runs like a well-oiled machine because we’ve spent years doing this,” VanSickle explains.

Anyone looking to register to receive assistance this year can do so in New Glasgow on November 14, 15 and 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Summer Street Industries, or in Pictou on November 15 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church Hall.

Disbursement dates in New Glasgow are December 12 and 13 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Summer Street and in Pictou on December 13 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church Hall.

BY THE NUMBERS

• First “Christmas Daddy” show on community television raised $5,000

• More than $8,000 was collected in 1976 and more than 350 families were helped

• In 1981 the organizing committee became incorporated as the Pictou County Christmas Fund

• The last Christmas Fund telethon held in the K-Vision studio was on November 28, 1982

• 1983 telethon moves to the deCoste Centre

• By 1987, with more than $40,000 pledged for the first time since the telethon began, 900 families received assistance

• More than $1.5 million raised to date

• More than 10,000 families helped to date


Among the Pictou County Christmas Fund board members working to organize this year’s show on November 25 are, from the left: Debbie VanSickle, Ann MacGregor and Monique Sobey. (Jardine photo)