by Summer Clemenson
Living Ministries President & Exclaim Media, LLC Co-Owner

I had not even been voted in on the advisory board for Salvation Army yet. I was visiting to see if I fit and was listening while trying to not get overwhelmed. Their organization is so much greater in size than my little non-profit, Living Ministries, but I realized that there was a need.

For over 24 years the Neighbors in Need program, which was created to supplement Salvation Army and whose very mission statement is “To raise money for Christmas food vouchers for needy families” had given all monies collected to pay for the food vouchers that Salvation Army gives out during winter. This year they decided to make a change and only inform Salvation Army 4 months before Christmas.

After I was voted in, the emails began to pile up with more details as Hal Palmer, fellow board member and chair, attempted to set up a meeting with Rick Parrish of The Daily News. There was a brief moment that we believed that he could be persuaded to wait one year, but eventually we saw that was not going to happen. At our November meeting it really sunk in that something had to be done, not because we didn’t think that St. Vincent de Paul and Lower Columbia CAP should not have access to funds to help people, but because there are people that depend on Salvation Army and we had already anticipated a larger need this year due to the economy.

Salvation Army feeds people every day of the week. No matter who you are, you can show up and be fed and directed to services that may be able to help you which include clothes, help finding a job, transitional housing and much more. What is even more impressive and why I felt I could stand beside this over 130 year old organization is that when you give to Salvation Army 85% of what you give stays in your community. A portion goes to worldwide Salvation Army services and overhead is kept to a minimum.

During a meeting in early November while the advisory board talked about options, I heard my voice say, “I have several bands that have told me they would do a benefit concert for Living Ministries.” I knew that in an organization as large as Salvation Army, it would take more time to get everything approved than we had to spare, unlike our very small Living Ministries Board, who is both loyal and like-minded, who would have no problem moving. The goal was to have a fundraiser and give all proceeds to Salvation Army’s Christmas Angel Community Center Food Voucher program and fill the $20,000 deficit.

Lonnie Knowles, fellow advisory board member asked to meet with Karen Gidderon, my business partner at Exclaim Media, LLC and VP at Living Ministries. As we spoke over warm drinks at Intermission Coffee House, it was Lonnie’s idea to turn the benefit into a 24 hour telethon. I swallowed hard, knowing this would be more difficult than a benefit concert, but then agreed we would tackle this. That same evening we found ourselves over at the Longview Eagles, where Jerry Wangler, jumped at the chance to let us use their building which promised a good location and parking, a dance floor and stage, a family-friendly atmosphere as well as a bar for those over 21 years of age.

The Longview Eagles answered our need beyond our hopes. All the bartenders, who are volunteers, worked out a schedule to have coverage for the full 24 hours. The Auxiliary hosted a grand potato bar with all the fixings for donation on Friday night and on Saturday morning were up bright and early to serve huge plates of pancakes and sausage for only $3 each! All proceeds were donated to the cause! They even decorated the hall for Christmas!

Meanwhile Christmas Angel Telethon took on a life of its own!

Hosts, Karen Gidderon, Bryan Calhoun and Lonnie Knowles were excited and helped to bring in contributors. We are very thankful to Another Option Inc. for letting us use Bryan for this event and for the time that Stewart Title gave Lonnie to us to promote this production.

Silent Auction Items and prizes were donated by: Applebees, Bryan & Teresa Calhoun, Carl Wirkkala Songwriter, Cascade Title, Fibre Federal Credit Union, JC’s PC Repair – owned by John Coleman, Knotty Wares Yarn and Fiber Art Co-Op, Poet with a Cause’s Karen Locke, Red Canoe Credit Union, Roy Who and ZoJo Coffee Roasters.

Music and More Productions agreed to allow us the use of sound equipment without flinching. Mike Juell and Scott Netling were glad to help. They even set up the day before, bringing mics and everything we needed to be heard! We were really thankful for Tom Stebbins who stepped up and donated his time to manage the sound system while Mike and Scott were working at other events over the weekend. Stephen Tack of STack Sound also made himself available as sound consultant during the event.

Exclaim Media, LLC donated an Exclaim Supreme Events Package including flyer creation, Public Service Announcement creation & distribution to their database of radio stations and newspapers within 50 miles of Kelso-Longview, WA, they listed the event on CowlitzToday.com and in their Exclaiming the Community Eclub Blast that goes to over 300 people each week, they featured us on their website and also gave us a spot on Boomer Plus Tuesday, a radio show that Karen Gidderon co-hosts with Randy Parr of Allied Hearing Aid Specialists. Exclaim Media, also stepped up and donated a website and hosting and also let us use their phone line for contact information.

Once the flyers were created we were truly blessed by Copies Today who donated printing. We were enamored at the quality and timeliness of the job completion and would advise anyone needing printing to go talk to Pat Palmer!

Our custom banner was printed by Prographyx; owned by fellow advisory board member, Cal Dowd. He also donated a prize for a contest we had on Facebook for people that found the ad Salvation Army put in The Daily News.

Valley Bugler Newspaper was glad to donate ad space in their December issue. We were so happy to see the great write up that Michelle Myre included in this issue.

I was swamped with contacting bands and people from benevolent organizations to fill our time at the telethon while Karen and Lonnie looked for Silent Auction items and prizes.

We had wanted to have this event be live, but we were told by KLTV that they could not help us with such short notice. Not being easily pulled from our goal we decided to stream live online. In order to help us have the bandwidth needed for great reception, we contacted Cascade Networks. They came through in the most generous manner, donating Commercial Quality Internet with insane amounts of bandwidth and a phone line for the telethon.

Aaron’s donated 2 laptops to help with streaming and answering phones. We were supposed to have cameras for the event and had practiced for a large 3 camera shoot, even buying special equipment to make it happen, but at the last minute there were no cameras available from KLTV and lucky for us that Bryan was willing to work with us to find another way to stream live. We could never have gone live online if Bryan Calhoun had not been the “rock” he was and willing to experimented with me on the best way to do this. We were also thankful that both Hal Palmer and omOriginals Marketing loaned us projectors to help with this huge, and last minute event.

Even though we only had a month to pull this event off we were not short on amazing talent! The show was opened by Connie Wallace and Jim Blair who played gorgeous Celtic violin music. They were followed by Tapestry NW who tapped to festive Christmas music. High Step Dance Academy also showed up with a team of dancers and several dance routines. The event was filled with music by Doubleday Vine, The Brightest, Hey Radio, Emilio, SEACATS, Frogsuit and Anna’s Kin. Karsilama played Middle Eastern music while belly dancers graced the dance floor. Nate Grossman sang his heart out, Deedre Speicher and her little brother Dominic sang an upbeat song by Justin Bieber and MP-6 “jazzed” up the afternoon. We had the piano stylings of Diana Loback of Global Images while we gathered around and sang Christmas Carols and were surprised by a visit from The New Divide from Vancouver. We even had poetry readings by John Hanna and Karen Locke of Poet with a Cause.

Because the mission of Living Ministries is “unifying the community to administer hope,” we had to make room for benevolent organizations and community leaders to have a voice. We were glad to hear from both Hal Palmer and Captain Dave from Salvation Army – Captain Lola was there too, but we couldn’t get her on camera, Kelly Otten from Mountain Ministries Ranch, Chuck Hendrickson of Love Overwhelming, Erik Maloy from Solid Rock Fellowship, Debra Lawson-Bean of Angel Wings Ministry Animal Shelter, Dian Cooper of Cowlitz Family Health Center, Nate Grossman of Celebrate Recovery, Glen Sensenbach of Faithful Servants Transitional Housing and George Robertson of FISH of Cowlitz County gave great interviews about what they do. Our own Linda Haarstad of Living Ministries gave a marvelous interview which left us inspired to keep going (she didn’t stay the whole time but did make appearances both days only to be thoroughly surprised at how well Karen and I were holding up). We were very happy to hear from Rick Winsman of the Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce, who also blasted this event to local businesses in their email marketing campaigns and gave us 2 spots on their radio show, The Chamber Connection. Longview City Council Members Ken Botero and Mike Wallin also made appearances.

The first ever Christmas Angel Telethon was an event to proclaim. We had so much fun making it happen that we even started planning next years at the same time we were planning this year. The totals are still coming in but as of 6 pm on December 10th we had $3010 in the kettle. We did take another $10 donation later that night and between the promise of an $1100 check in the mail and the buckets we need to pick up at some of the bars, we might even hit $5000 before the season is over. You can still give. There is still a deficit. Please see http://cowlitzchristmasangel.com to see some of our favorite clips from the event and learn how you can help.

We will have our first planning meeting for next year on January 9th at 7 pm at The Electric Bean. Please join us or email us at info@livingministries.org with your ideas.

THANK YOU to our community that gave their time and money. We could never have done what we did without you.

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