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In February, we hosted our fifth annual Valentine’s Singing Telegram fundraiser. This year was truly remarkable: we delivered or recorded over 60 singing telegrams in just three days, including 25 generously sponsored songs to Northside neighbors.  We raised over $2,000 for critical community-based programming work.  And, we had a blast doing it!

Here are just a few glimpses of the fun-raiser:  we sang to a professor in the middle of her lecture at NC Central, shocking the students who said, “we’ve never witnessed anything like this.”    We surprised two groups of teachers from daycares in town with “You are my sunshine.”  We sang three songs to Town Hall staff in front of whole groups of staff gathered.  We left an entire bar laughing when we performed “Backstreet Boys” to a couple of embarrassed Jackson Center friends.   Our star lead singer, Brentton Harrison created a “love medley” that he delivered to woman in a beauty salon, shocked that her husband even knew where she did her hair and moved by the power of the love songs.  And our quartet, the “Jackson Center 4” belted “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to a family at dinner in one of Chapel Hill’s largest restaurants.    While all of these deliveries were fun, the highlight was delivering songs of “You Are My Sunshine” and “My Girl” to over 20 lifetime neighbors of Northside.   Several residents said this was the first time they had ever been serenaded.  Others sat and listened with tears streaming down their faces.  One sang along.  Most said it made their Valentine’s Day so special.   We cannot thank our donors/sponsors/neighbors for making this even possible and for making this the best year of singing telegrams so far.

I Want it That Way to, former MSW Intern William Page

My Girl to Ms. Kathy Kieth Carlotta

Lead singer Brentton Harrison has written a reflection and poem about this experience below.  As he so eloquently says, the most powerful part of the singing telegrams is not that they raise money but that they light up people’s days and build community in a way that is so central to the Jackson Center’s mission.  If you have time, check out videos we will post of a few of the fun singing telegrams for this year, and enjoy the reflection from staff member Brentton Harrison below:

At the Jackson Center, we often discuss the goal of “Renewing the Glue.”   Well, what does that  mean?  How can we be part of it? How can we, as a part of this community-minded center of service and advocacy, do this?   One way we renew the glue is by offering our gifts to our community in celebration and reminding them that their presence in this community is “the sunshine on a cloudy day” and that they can call on us to say that they’re admired, remembered, respected, and we are following in their legacies to enact selfless love:

To the ladder of synaptic shocks
Books spine cracking for the first time
Networks of love and abundance
To a community where
Smiles lead to wisdom
Lead by the ears of different English
And rhythm’s waves are made
To enter through eyes
And now we stand beside
Time: a defying grace
Never have I ever seen that
played out in the contraction
in the eyes of a community’s
library of memories, stories, and
wise truths broken in the pauses
and the stammerings of the Queens –
Matriarchs, time defies its own
Afflictions and wears standing and sitting
With power beyond sights but
Vibrations shakes out
Gratitude of being thought of,
remembered, and offered a
joyful noise of 3 loud boys
Hearts tender as souffle
Yet there are stuffed beyond
Capacity with humility and
History of our teachers tears
Thump tug and tickle the strings of them

Renewing the glue is the essence of the 5th annual Singing Telegrams fundraiser.  We offer ourselves in abundance to those who have taught us this love.  It is in this we find abundant love, connection, and a beloved community. Spread love, renew the glue, and keep on singing because you don’t know if your voice can make a difference until you use it.   I am also grateful for everyone who gave and made space for us to bring joy, build community, and express abundant love throughout the world and with you.

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