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Telethon is a hit, say organizers

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 24, 2002

Organizers of the first Hernando County United Way Telethon count the event as a success on all fronts.

The 12-hour event raised more than $13,600 Saturday to help support 24 United Way funded agencies including Youth & Family Alternatives, Alzheimer's Family Organization and Hospice.

"It was just super," said Penny Zaphel, executive director of the county's United Way organization. "It was everything we dreamed of and more."

But putting the event together took an army of volunteers, she said, including phone workers, performers and technical staff.

"I was surprised at the number of people it took to produce the show," she said. "We had more than 200 people who came through the doors to make it happen. It ended up of being a really great gathering of the community.

Volunteers covered the atrium of the Hernando County Government Building and the telephone banks set up in the Hernando County Broadcasting studios, Zaphel said.

The event was the brainchild of the county's video production manager, Rick Foti, but it took about a year for the telethon to get off the ground.

"So many people doubted him, but nobody's doubting him anymore," said Zaphel.

Thanks to good-natured pledge challenges from the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, School Board and County Commission, Zaphel said the totals grew steadily throughout the day.

"People had a lot of fun with it," she said. "It was all for a good cause and that's the important thing."

The telethon coincided with the United Way's annual fundraising kickoff and Foti said he looks forward to making next year's event bigger and better.

"Every dollar was a success and I hope that next year we can make even more," he said.

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