The recently opened Hillsboro Orpheum is the new home of the Ernie Blankenship Radio-Telethon for the benefit of the Highland County Society for Children and Adults, event organizer Rocky Coss announced Tuesday.
The plan is for the Orpheum to be the permanent location of the telethon with several banks rotating as hosts, rather than the event rotating from bank to bank, Coss said. First State is replacing U.S. Bank and will be this year’s host. Coss said he believes there will be at least one other new host in addition to Merchants National Bank and NCB, which continue to support the telethon.
Speaking from the second floor of the Orpheum where the telethon will be held, Coss said the Highland County Society for Children and Adults also has a new website and an updated Facebook page.
“This is a major leap for the society and the banks,” Coss said. “We wanted to keep it uptown and this facility is going to be great. There is a sound system here so as the telethon is broadcast, you’ll be able to hear it as it’s going on… It’s going to be a great event and we’ll have a lot more room.”
Sponsored by the Rotary Clubs in Hillsboro and Greenfield, this year’s telethon will be held from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, March 25 at the Hillsboro Orpheum and McClain High School TV studio in Greenfield. It will also be broadcast on 1590 AM and 101.5 FM.
Coss, also the Highland County Common Pleas Court judge, said some things like the phone number to call to make a pledge during the telethon are still being worked out, but those things will be announced as the telethon nears.
He also thanked Orpheum owner Dale Martin for use of the facility and for restoring the building. In years long past, Coss said, the Orpheum was the site of a movie theater and dances, and its third floor was home to the Hillsboro Elks.
“It’s a tremendous asset to maintaining the uptown area, preserving the building and keeping some of the facilities that were here before,” Coss said.
Held each year since 1973, Coss said that in recent years the telethon has raised around $100,000 to $105,000 annually, and while he’s like to raise that amount again, no goal has been set.
“We’re hopeful we can raise that amount. We raise the money to use it as needed. Whatever the community is able to contribute will be put to good use,” Coss said.
Coss noted that the 16th annual Chili Challenge will be held Feb. 26 at the Highland County Senior Citizen in Hillsboro. The winning hot and mild recipes are then prepared for the annual Chili Dinner and Dessert Auction that will be held March 5 at the Pondo Banquet Center in Hillsboro with all proceeds going to the telethon.
In its previous 47 years, Coss said the telethon has raised $3.74 million thanks to the generosity of local residents.
“I think because of the fact that the money is used here locally, we have very little overhead, and of course the involvement of the Rotary Clubs and other people that have helped in the past,” Coss said in explaining the telethon’s success. “Local people helping local people has always been our unofficial motto, and that’s what it’s all about. …And one of the big reasons for its success is (the late) Ernie Blankenship. He worked it every day of the year.”
While the society receives some donations throughout the year, Coss said about 98 percent of its budget is raised during the telethon.
He also noted that the telethon will be streamed live online this year and that those interested will be able to donate online at hicoso.org.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.