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Children In Need: I manage a call centre

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Lisa Cogdell-Brown Lisa Cogdell-Brown | 10:00 UK time, Monday, 21 November 2011

It was 11 years ago now that I started volunteering to manage a donation centre for BBC Children in Need.

On the night of the first appeal I worked on, we had volunteers lined up to answer 125 phone lines, thinking that would be feasible.

It wasn't until we saw the list of all the UK's donation centres that we realised that on our first ever outing we had become biggest one of the night!

Back in those days the donations were on paper, in triplicate and it meant the call centre team were still working at 4am, tallying totals and splitting the sheets into coloured piles.

But it was worth it, the buzz was still going around the following week and boy did we have fun.

Staff brought friends and family members in to help, it was fancy dress with competitions running throughout the night to keep us all going and our local burger chain kindly fed all of us volunteers for free.

Terry Wogan and Fearne Cotton reveal the total money raised for Children in Need

Terry Wogan and Fearne Cotton reveal this year's total for Children in Need

I cannot lie; I did get very emotional at the closedown of our first year.

In the years that followed we've had great support - players from Bath Rugby came in to take phone calls from the public along with Anthony Head the actor - though I haven't met Terry Wogan yet.

Most staff have worked a full day in their usual day jobs and then go on to work another six hours for Children in Need for free.

Many start off saying they will come in for two hours but then refuse to go home and stay until the end.

We have a team who do the running around on the night, making tea and coffee for the rest of the volunteers, answering queries and keeping us all awake as the hours pass. But the bulk of us are sat taking non-stop calls throughout the night from the public.

At our donation centre in the south west, we've taken over 9,000 calls on one night and as it gets later and other centres close, we ramp up with the number of calls coming through.

There are approximately 50 call centres in total taking part. It's an amazing atmosphere and the people who ring in are always so lovely to speak to.

There are so many different ways to donate now and of course it's now all computerised - no more paper which stops your arm aching in the first hour!

We're cleared away and out of the door within half an hour of closing the event as after years of experience, we have it down to a fine art.

I write this just as we start our 2011 shift and I'm already emotional.

The one thing I think we will all take home with us at the end of tonight is knowing we have helped make a small difference.

Lisa Cogdell-Brown manages the Trowbridge call centre for Children in Need.

You can still watch Children In Need until Friday, 25 November 2011.

Children In Need Rocks Manchester is available to watch until Saturday, 26 November 2011.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.



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