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One For The Books

Here we are, just a few short weeks after the historic WAMC fund drive. Between the locked box that raised half of the money before the on-air drive started and three and a half days of actual fund drive, we ended up with a million dollars in the bank.

The on-air talent was extraordinary. Ray Graf sat across the table from me every morning, Joe Donahue was there with either Sarah LaDuke or Selma Kaplan most of the day; Jessica Bloustein Marshall pitched with Ray at midday; David Guistina anchored every morning, making sure that everyone had the weather in those super snowy days; and Brian Shields brought us up to date on the news every afternoon.

The stalwart volunteers showed up, despite the fact that there were days when they couldn’t see two feet in front of them. We couldn’t have survived without them and just didn’t know what we would do if they couldn’t make it in. But there they were. Somehow, someway, in the dink and the dank of the night they arrived and so did all the generous gifts from so many people who have become a part of the WAMC story.

There were the coffee people, the bagel people, cheese people and the hundreds of restaurants who gave away premiums of meals. They didn’t have to but they did. These are places that are filled every night, no matter what, but they depend on WAMC. Everywhere I go, the people who run them tell me how proud they are of “our radio station.”

Every evening, the night crew worked their magic, adding thousands of dollars to the growing total. Like Rumpelstiltskin, Ian Pickus and James Farison would turn straw into gold and make my heart beat with joy when I saw that they and their “night people” had done it once more.

And then there were all those people behind the scenes, like Meegan Finnegan, Felicia Berke, Colleen O’Connell, Casey Chapman, and Deena Salzman who would always be there to greet me with the coffee no matter how early I arrived. Everything was ready for the volunteers and staff as they wandered in, bleary eyed.

In the end, though, the real heroes of the fund drive are you. People ask me all the time what our WAMC secret is but we know, don’t we, that if people didn’t come together as a community to make us what we are, there would be no WAMC. There’s no secret. There’s no one person. It has never been anything but the knowledge that together, we built this station one brick and one program at a time. I could cry as I see your names rush by.

Some people will give more than once, wanting to help make a challenge or make the point that in our community, we don’t depend on a few wealthy donors to make it happen. It is, and will always be, each according to their ability. Just think of it -- someone who has nothing gives twenty-five dollars, another generous person puts a thousand dollars into the kitty, saying that she couldn’t live without the station. Imagine that, a thousand dollars.

Back in the early days when we first started the fund drives, the then Mayor of Albany, Erastus Corning, wandered in with eight hundred dollars in his pocket and made the first challenge grant. We thought it was more money than we would ever see. We matched it on the radio with just three phones in a few minutes and that’s how the challenge thing began. It is so interesting. A thousand dollar challenge can inspire a virtual frenzy of activity. Humongous grants of five, ten and even twenty-five thousand dollars will come in, sometimes as total surprises. You have no idea how it feels when we see them and know that in the language of the fund drive, “We’re saved, I tell you, we’re saved!”

Thank you. We love you.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.
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