Goal smashed for the annual Alexandria Jingle Bells Telethon

Donations exceed $80,000, which is $20,000 over the goal.

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Lydia Mason, 8, of Osakis, was a first-time performer at the Jingle Bells Telethon Saturday, Dec. 12. Mason, the daughter of Kevin and JoAnna Mason, sang "O Holy Night." (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

The results are in and this year’s annual Jingle Bells Telethon was a success. Although donations are still coming in after Saturday’s live telethon, the donations exceeded the goal by more than $20,000. This year’s goal was $60,000 and at the end of the telethon Dec. 12, the total raised was $80,308.42.

“We exceeded our goal by over $20,000, which is just amazing,” said Chelsey Koopman, president of the Jingles Bells Foundation , the organization in charge of the event. “This really shows how much the community continues to support one another, regardless of the pandemic.”

Koopman said the majority of the money was used to purchase gift cards to either Elden’s Fresh Foods or Cub Foods for area families.

“We sent out gift cards to 712 families in the Alexandria area,” she said, adding that the rest of the money will go to the Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf, scholarship for an Alexandria Area High School student and to the organizations hardship fund.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and all the changes taking place because of it, such as no live audience, the show was still a success and Koopman said she is excited to see what 2021 will bring.


Tim Urness, one of the telethon’s hosts, said it was a super fun night and that simply being able to still have the telethon during these uncertain times was a blessing.

“Once again, the Alexandria community stepped up in a powerful manner and will help so many people,” he said.

Urness said maybe this was a year someone needed help but next year, it flip flops and that same person is able to make a donation.

“No one really knows how life can change so quickly,” he said. “But for the people who could help that did, thank you.”

Chelsea Lee, another one of the hosts, said she was super impressed with the transformation of the space. The show typically takes place at the Lake Geneva Christian Center, but this year, because it was scaled back, the event took place at the Performing Arts Center at Alexandria Area High School.

“It looked like a baby Jingle Bells set right down to the trees and ornaments,” she said.

Lee was also impressed with this year’s production company, LiveWire out of Fargo, which is owned and operated by Kent Kolstad, an Alexandria graduate. She said the technology they provided was top-notch and made her feel like she was in Hollywood.

“They worked with our budget and our teams meshed well together,” she said. “It was a madhouse behind the stage, but an organized one. We were able to pull off a phenomenal show and followed all the COVID curveballs keeping everyone safe.”


Although it was a great show, Lee said that she missed the audience, the laughter, reactions and all the smiles, but said she could feel them in her heart.

Her favorite part of the whole evening was that the acts were able to perform live.

“It’s been months since we’ve heard live music and you could feel the power and joy of it in the room,” she said. “What an honor and privilege to have those performers there and not over a Zoom call.”

Lee also gave a shout out to the amazing janitors at the high school. She said they were great support and were right there whenever anything was needed.

Joe Korkowski, the other host, said although there are several great options in the community to host the event, including the Lake Geneva Christian Center, the Performing Arts Center venue was and is amazing. He looks forward to having the opportunity to use the space again for future telethons.

Being a host for several years, Korkowski said he is continually blown away by the talent and can’t imagine the feedback all the talented acts will receive when they can perform again in front of a full house.

“From Karly Yeats to the Ostlund kids, from the band Understudy to all of the very talented dancers, what a gifted and blessed group that we were to be able to experience those performances,” said Korkowski.

As much as he loved the live performances, he did mention that it was a little odd talking to the empty seats. But he also said it was fun connecting with people who texted in, messaged us backstage or sent in challenges with their pledges.


Each year, there are always little skits that the hosts put together and Korkowski said it is always fun and they like to goof off with those pieces. But what is truly remarkably fulfilling seeing all of the people in the community coming together over a cause.

“As a foundation, we know this year’s distribution is not as complete as we’d like it (sending out grocery cards vs. food boxes and toys) but we had to do something this year. The pandemic kept putting up roadblock after roadblock, but as a board we felt we had to figure something out,” said Korkowksi. “We were so glad for the partnership with Kent from Livewire and Alexandria Public Schools. They really are the reason we were able to be successful this year.”

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Marisa Rousa, 14, of Alexandria, performed the song "We're not far from Bethlehem" with her grandfather, Tom Sellin, during Saturday's live Jingle Bells Telethon. They have been performing on Jingle Bells for seven years. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

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Noah Hubbard, a Brandon-Evansville student, performed "Imagine" by John Lennon during the annual Jingle Bells Telethon Saturday, Dec. 12. (Celeste Edenloff/ Echo Press)

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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