KRLT fund-raising drive to deliver money for Christmas Cheer |

KRLT fund-raising drive to deliver money for Christmas Cheer

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Dennis Heinz of KRLT prepares the music library for Friday's Christmas Cheer fund-raiser. Afterward, Heinz will be moving to Washington.

It takes more than a song and dance to feed, clothe and entertain the needy of a community. It takes money and good will.

That’s what the folks volunteering at Christmas Cheer and workers at KRLT radio are hoping for this Friday during an on-air, fund-raising telephone drive at Raley’s to benefit the nonprofit organization.

In October, Christmas Cheer records showed the organization needed to collect at least $6,000 to meet the demand over the holidays this year, according to bookkeeper Paula Murray. In 2003, it collected $30,000 – about $5,000 less than the prior year.

Last year, 1,400 Christmas baskets were doled out from the small nonprofit with an annual operating budget of $79,000. This year, at least 100 more recipients are expected to make the list.

The daunting task can’t keep Wilma Thomas down. Every year, there’s a major push about this time.

“We’ll make it up,” the Christmas Cheer director said.

Along with an army of volunteers, 30 barrels around town, many individual donations and collection programs from all the major grocers, Thomas has pulled help out of the air with Dennis Heinz.

The KRLT general manager will stage the second Christmas Cheer on-air, fund-raising drive – an event that began last year when the organization’s $22,000 need became a threat to the families who rely on the service each year for toys, food and clothes.

“It helps a lot,” Thomas said.

Heinz began the on-air, fund-raising drive as a remote broadcast from Raley’s only a week after he came on board the South Lake Tahoe radio station. It ran for 12 hours and raised $5,000 in cash plus grocery bags full of food.

The deal was that anyone who donated could request a song. He got some interesting requests.

“We had one for Benny Goodman. So the station pulled out an old 78 (record), put it on a wind-up phonograph and held up a mic to it,” he said. “We’ll play anything from Frank Sinatra to Toby Keith.

“I think in town there was a feeling over the years that KRLT let them down,” he said.

Heinz wanted to bring back a sense of community spirit in connection to the station.

The outreach paid off. Advertising sales went up 12 percent, he said.

One year later, the 18-year radio veteran is moving back to Washington state on Friday. He bought a radio station outside Yakima.

“If anything, I hope I left the radio station is good shape, and I hope to give back to the community,” he said.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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