Jon Gailmor perfects the singing telegram

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(Host) A well-known Lamoille County singer- songwriter is involved in an unusual way of raising money for his community. He’s revived the art of the singing telegram.

VPR’s Amy Noyes has the story:

(Noyes) Jon Gailmor is a board member of United Way of Lamoille County. When he stepped up to the mic at Union Bank’s recent annual meeting, folks expected the usual report on nonprofit activities. Instead, he broke into a musical tribute to the bank.

(Gailmor, singing) "You’re there for every relay, for Life and Lace ‘em Up. When folks are feelin’ empty, you’re helpin’ fill their cup. With Sprokids you’re a champion and even in the sty, just before you barbecue you kiss the pigs good bye. (laughter) Union Bank, United Way…"

(Noyes) John Gailmor serves on the United Way board, but he’s best known as a professional singer/songwriter. Composing and delivering singing telegrams is the newest addition to his diverse repertoire.

Dawn Archbold is Executive Director of United Way of Lamoille County. She proposed the idea of the singing telegram as a way to raise funds for the nonprofit.

(Archbold) "Somebody was talking about singing telegrams so I thought, ‘Hmm, we have Jon Gailmor on our board. Wouldn’t it be great if he would do singing telegrams.’

(Noyes) Gailmor agreed, and now says the singing telegrams have been well worth the effort – both for the United Way and for him, personally.

(Gailmor) "I feel like a cook, where I have all these ingredients and I make them into something palatable, more than palatable hopefully – entertaining and enjoyable and meaningful, too…"

(Noyes) No two telegrams are the same. He’s delivered birthday greetings to a Morrisville middle school teacher in front of a cafeteria full of kids… And to a private audience of two, in a driveway in Eden. Gailmor says watching people’s response to his work is part of the fun.

(Gailmor) "People are shocked and embarrassed. There are a lot of shy people out there who don’t like the limelight. But it’s their friends’ fault. It’s their cohorts and coworkers’ fault for coming up with this idea, but I’m glad to be a part of it."

(Noyes) Gailmor recalls one delivery where he had to choke back tears, singing a birthday greeting to a soldier from his wife.

(Gailmor) "He was out there tinkering with his pickup truck, they both were out there and he was under the hood. And I pulled up and he looked up wondering what was going on. And I got out of my car and went over to them, took out my sheet of paper and said, (sings) "You did us all proud in the sands of Iraq. After 18 long months we feel blessed that you’re back. Thirty-seven today, just a babe in the woods. With a whole life before you, let’s party like we should. Happy birthday dear John from Vicki, your bride…(fade out)"

(Gailmor) "So I got out, and did that, and we all started crying. So it was very difficult to get through that."

(Noyes) Gailmor says he enjoys this new form of volunteerism, but there are limits.

(Gailmor) "As much as I would love to spend my life doing these things all over the continental U.S., and abroad, this is a Lamoille County phenomenon… So the people of this area, Morrisville, Stowe, Elmore etcetera, are more than welcome to partake, in turn for a donation to the United Way. But I do have to also make a living."

(Noyes) Anyone in Lamoille County can request their own personalized telegram. The local United Way asks for a minimum $30 donation, in support of the services they provide in the area.

For VPR News, I’m Amy Noyes.

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