By Gay Regan, Contributor
Last year was marked by wonderful teamwork between the board of The Charlotte News and The Friends of The Charlotte News. And our Charlotte community was tremendously generous as both organizations worked together to raise money for the paper. We are so very grateful for this support from our community.
The paper and website are our face to the community, and finding, supporting and retaining writers from the community is vital. But producing the paper also takes a lot of behind the scenes volunteer work and the quiet, steady teamwork that often goes unnoticed. By working together—board, staff, writers and volunteers—we were able to survive a year of COVID-19 and to enter 2021 in a strong financial position.
Much of the credit for our improved financial position goes to Ted LeBlanc, our board treasurer. I would guess that many of our readers don’t know much about Ted and his accomplishments, so I will share how he has conserved and augmented the funds that we all raised together.
Ted LeBlanc is the unsung hero in this article.
Ted joined the board as our treasurer in March of 2019 after a 46-year career predominantly in the shipping and transportation industry. Before retiring, Ted ran his own company, Global Maritime Transportation Services, which specialized in pricing software and services for ocean carriers. Ted grew up in Montreal, Canada, but was a world business traveler and had offices in New Jersey, Florida, Toronto and London. In 2015 he became a U.S. citizen; he also holds Canadian citizenship. One of his joys in retirement is playing the guitar in a trio with Mike Walker of Charlotte and Patti Shannon of Essex. He is married to Jane Kearns and they have three grown children and one grandchild.
In 2020, Ted helped to augment our paper’s funds with three grants totaling more than $28,000. He said in our interview, “In every case, we needed teamwork in order to garner the grants.” The first grant opportunity was offered by Independent News Network (INN) through their NewsMatch initiative and discovered by Vince Crockenberg. Based on the gifts of our Charlotte donors, we received a $15,000 NewsMatch grant, the maximum available. Ted’s contribution was preparing the reports, responding to questionnaires and carefully accounting for every check and PayPal transaction.
The second and third grants came through the Small Business Administration and provided a total of $13,740. This Payroll Protection Program award started as a loan and became a grant. The other grant came through an Economic Injury Damage Loan. Ted worked through the application process for both and submitted the paperwork.
Ted has also saved our paper a lot of money. He spoke of his philosophy for savings within an organization. “When you look at an operation there is always a two-pronged approach: the revenue side and the expense side. In evaluating the expenses, it’s important to cut expenses but not affect operations.” Other than payroll, rent and printing are the paper’s two largest expenses. Ted ran a Request for Proposal (RFP) for printing the paper. As a result, Ted and Anna Cyr, our managing editor, decided to switch to a different printer, allowing for better quality print along with annual savings of approximately $5,000.
He also saved the paper the costs of an office. Around early spring just before COVID-19 was closing things down, Vince Crockenberg approached our landlord, Andrew Thurber, to say that we would not be renewing our lease for office space in his building. Andrew graciously waived the remainder of our lease. Savings from insurance and rent was about $6,000. Everyone connected to the production of the paper was now working from home. These moves allowed for a smooth transition into the year of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Earlier this year, Vince and Mike Russell applied to the IRS for a new nonprofit 501(c)3 designation, working many hours to complete this complicated process. Ted prepared the financial projections to support our application. A new organization, TCN, Inc., would fold the two current organizations (The Friends of the Charlotte News and The Charlotte News) into a single operation to allow fundraising and advertising within the same framework. Ted and Susan Jones, our bookkeeper, are readying the books for this change, although our application is still pending with the IRS.
Early in 2020, Bob Bloch and our fundraising committee purchased new software, Little Green Light, so that our sister organization, Friends of the Charlotte News, could keep better track of gifts and more easily stay in touch with our donors. Ted worked with the Friends to load the data. Suzanne Davis, chairman of The Friends, wrote about Ted, “He was instrumental in getting me up to speed on so many levels. His support on the technical side was invaluable.” She went on to say, “Teamwork and coordination between the two entities (the Friends and the News) is crucial. Ted and all the members of the board that I’ve worked with have been wonderful. It’s a great team.”
Ted is a “behind the scenes” team player. Around Christmas time, however, we sometimes find him in a more heroic role, disguised as Santa Claus. Whether as treasurer or Santa Claus, he plays an important role in our community. But he is not alone. The town and this 63-year-old paper are fortunate to have contributions from hundreds of Charlotte volunteers who take photos, write articles, deliver papers, fundraise and give money, advertise on our pages, serve on the board, or work with the Friends of the Charlotte News. We are so very grateful to each of you.