Left to right: Dimitri Stankevich, Nicole Matisse, Jake Perrine and Bethany Marie during the telethon.

Community extends generosity to Orcas Center

Hundreds of islanders tuned in to Orcas Center’s first-ever live telethon, witnessing $90,000 pour in for the performing arts venue.

“I get choked up at every fundraiser. Every raise of the paddle is emotional for me, and hearing the phone ringing and seeing the donations come in during the telethon was no exception,” said Artistic Director and Technical Director Jake Perrine. “This community is simply amazing in normal times, but since March I’ve seen people pull together on a whole new level. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

The center shut down operations early last spring, days away from opening night of “Chicago: the Musical.” Since then, staff has had to reinvent the organization’s offerings as COVID-19 restrictions continue to prohibit in-person performances. Perrine has spearheaded successful livestreaming from both local and off-island performers on the main stage with the help of a volunteer tech crew.

Incorporated in 1976, Orcas Center is a non-profit arts and cultural organization that presents and produces theater, dance, music and visual arts by local and visiting artists, hosts weekly classes from yoga to dance to painting and is the location of four different Orcas cultural festivals. Traditionally, the nonprofit holds a gala fundraiser in the summer to raise funds for the coming year, bringing in $100,000. Instead, Executive Director Dimitri Stankevich chose to launch a donation campaign on Sept. 1 with the goal of raising $90,000 by the end of the year.

On Saturday, Nov. 13, Perrine hosted a live telethon — with prerecorded performances from singers, musicians and dancers, testimonials from volunteers and archival footage — urging viewers to open their wallets in the name of community theatre.

“As the evening went along I was blown away with the support. We were really feeling the love of the community,” Stankevich said. “People were calling in, making gifts online and really responding in a way that nearly brought me to tears on several occasions. It was especially great to hear from the people calling in. We had one couple who called even though they had already made a gift online just because they wanted to be part of the fun! I am humbly appreciative of everyone who continues to support OC during these difficult times.”

Perrine, who put in 100 hours writing, planning, shooting, editing and mixing the telethon, said it was an undertaking made possible by a team of staff and volunteers.

“Erin and Emily Bennet of Orcas Video, Bianca Cox on camera and Michael McGreggor were on lights and sound,” he said. “Bookkeeper Marcia West and Dimitri Stankevich answered the phones all evening, Bethany Marie kept a tally on donations and updated the website, and Nicole Matisse kept track of prize giveaways. Paul Huber made some excellent graphics for the event and the board helped with planning as well.”

Since September, 384 people have given a total of $104,000 during the campaign, which continues until the end of the year.

“We had a group of donors that combined to offer a $10,000 match to encourage and spark others to give. It really worked!” Stankevich said. “About 10 minutes from the end of the show I received a phone call from a very generous couple, who by the way had given $5,000 in April, who wanted to give an additional $5,000 towards a matching gift. We decided to announce that at the end of the telethon, and again in our newsletter Sunday morning with the hope that it could be matched within a week. We made the match by the end of the day on Sunday.”

The two-hour telethon can be viewed at www.orcascenter.org. It has been seen more than 500 times since its original airing. Donations can be made online or mailed to PO Box 567, Eastsound, WA 98245.

“We need this amount to make it through the end of this year and to start the new year on solid footings,” Stankevich said. “We will need a similar amount in the first six months of 2021 to ensure that we are in great shape to reopen. Hopefully, that will be some time in 2021.”