I’m almost ashamed to say that the first time I volunteered to take donation calls on the phone lines at the Janeway Telethon was last year. It’s not that I’ve never been willing, mind you. Fact is, being part of such a noble cause is so popular ’round these parts that by the time I thought to toss my name forward, all the seats were filled.
I was ahead of the crowd last year and was honoured to have a shift offered. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. If you’ve never volunteered, it’s quite a rush. First of all, even for seasoned folk like yours truly, someone used to gabbin’ anyone’s ear off at a moment’s notice, mannin’ the phone lines at the Janeway Telethon is an entirely different beast.
Lights! Camera! Action!
The training, put off for 30 years by the same darling of a man, Barry Green, was fun, but there was also pressure.
There’s paperwork, as you can only imagine, and attention to detail is a must. Dollar signs, decimal points – all important! If you’re taking someone’s credit card info down, you hardly want to be the one responsible for turning $10.00 into $100, or vice versa.
Even after the best training possible, the pressure’s still on. You know this is the real deal when you are walked over for your shift – in single file pre-school hold-the-rope style from training camp at The Herald’s office to the NTV studio.
Then it’s lights! Camera! Action! You’re on! And the phones start ringing! Besides the excitement of your first call, there’s all the action going on around you. There may be singing, chatting, updates on amount raised (with cheering!) and hosting duties going on all around you. Jesse Stirling, Stephanie O’Brien, Toni-Marie Wiseman and Eddie Sheerr all take turns at the mics while Danny Williams and other well-known folk mingle around for the cause. All the while, the most important person in the world is that person pledging 20 bucks from some remote area of the island.
‘Wave to me duckie!’
Not only are these folk proud of their donation, no matter how big or small, but they are also curious to know which one of the many phone-line volunteers they’re speaking with. Some of the best chats on my shift ended with; “Wave to me so I can see who you are, duckie!” followed by (after the wave request was fulfilled) “There you are! I sees ya!”
I took calls from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians pledging anywhere from $10 to $10,000 that day. And each caller was my next favourite. Some folk had saved money throughout the year for their donation. Some callers were children, a proud parent in the background, pledging their birthday money towards one very worthy cause. One lady who called, when I asked her name, replied simply, “Mary from The Point, not Mary from Back Cove.”
I got her info (like I was trained to do) and when the call ended she asked me to drop by sometime for tea. I told her, now that I knew where to find her (The Point NOT Back Cove) I just might one day. Big. Small. Young. Old. Silly or serious. Answering those phone calls was an honour and a pleasure. And the time I spent volunteering just flew by. Before I knew it, my time was done and I was whisked off to be replaced by the next eager, enthusiastic phone line volunteer.
An Open heart
While the time investment was short; some training, a wee walk across a parking lot and some bum-in-chair-phone-to-ear time spent taking calls, this was probably the greatest natural high I’ve felt in a very long time.
Talking to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as they do what we are known to do best – give with an open heart and a loving soul – was a personal high.
So, when you’re calling in this year with your donation, know that the person taking your call is thrilled to be talking to you because in that very moment, you are the most important person on the planet. And why not take a moment to ask for a ‘here I am’ wave.
And Mary, as long as you haven’t moved from ‘The Point’ I’m still planning on visiting one of these days when I’m in your neck of the woods. You’ll see me coming. I’ll wave at ya so you’ll know it’s me!
Pam Pardy Ghent, The Herald’s Managing Editor, can be reached by emailing [email protected]