Raul Benevides’ radio show celebrates golden anniversary

FALL RIVER – Some call him the ‘Portuguese Jerry Lewis’.

Raul Benevides has been using radio waves for decades to mobilize listeners and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the sick, the needy and many other noble causes.

On Sunday May 31, his daily radio show on WHTB turned 50. Relatives, friends and community members showed up in a car parade with festively decorated vehicles at his Highland Avenue home in Fall River, home of the “Azores-Madeira” studio. located, to celebrate the milestone.

“It was wonderful,” Benevides said on Tuesday, adding that he was deeply touched by the heartwarming celebration. ” I was not excpecting that at all. The cars kept coming.

Congratulatory phone calls also bombed his studio, coming from as far away as California and the Azores.

For decades, when someone needed his help, Benevides was there. And his listeners have also responded to his cry for help.

His numerous fundraisers have raised nearly $ 1 million to help those affected by cancer, natural disasters, orphans and other needy causes here and in Portugal.

While he was the driving force behind fundraising campaigns, he thanks his listeners – factory workers, shop and restaurant owners and employees, religious groups and members of the Portuguese community – for his campaigns. successful.

“I never did anything alone,” he said. “The community has always helped me.

He has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Casa do Gaiato and other orphanages in the Azores and Madeira through his radio show and numerous fundraising shows he has organized, many of which have taken place. in the Durfee High School auditorium.

In 1980, he helped raise over $ 50,000 to rebuild the Angra do Heroísmo Girls’ Orphanage, Terceira, Azores, which was destroyed by an earthquake.

He estimates that his program raised over $ 250,000 for the Rose Hawthorne Lathrop Cancer Home, which was run by the Hawthorne sisters and funded entirely by donations.

“They left this region, but for many years they hosted many Portuguese and other groups,” said Benevides, who lost her young daughter to leukemia. His late wife has also been repeatedly affected by the disease.

When he learned that the American Red Cross was in urgent need of blood, he organized a blood drive at the Saint-Michel parish hall.

“More than 700 people have donated blood. Others showed up, but the Red Cross ran out of bags and needles, ”he recalls. “It was great. We asked and the community responded. Local restaurants donated so much food that donors could eat a meal, not just a snack, if they wanted to, after donating blood.

He also helped create the now extinct Ateneu Luso Americano and the former Association of Portuguese Businesses and organize the Prince Henry Society. He has served on various organizations, including SER-Jobs for Progress, and was a member of the Grand Fall River Board of Elections and former Commissioner of the Grand Fall River Port Authority.

The walls bordering his office are covered with honorary distinctions testifying to his humanitarian altruism.

Dozens of quotes from members of the United States Congress, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, state lawmakers and city officials have been received for his outstanding community service.

The Prince Henry Society, the Isaiah Avila Foundation, O Jornal, the Azorean newspaper Correio dos Açores and many others named him “Man of the Year”.

His selfless ways and community spirit have also been recognized by the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Association, the American Leukemia Association, countless Luso-American organizations and other entities in Portugal.

In 1996, Mário Soares, then President of Portugal, awarded him the Medal of the Ordem da Comenda for his involvement in the preservation of Portuguese culture and his contribution to the well-being of the community in which he lives.

“I lost count of the awards I received,” he admitted. “But the community is the one that deserves the most credit. They are the ones who have helped me to help others. I never paid much attention to rewards. My intention was just to help others.

In addition to his many fundraisers, it is the humor and jokes of Benevides that conquered his listeners.

“Every show is like a party,” said João Amaral, a parishioner from St. Michael’s Church who took part in the car parade last Sunday. “I’ve been listening to it for about 40 years, since I was a kid. My parents were still listening to his show. He’s just a regular guy who likes to help people.

A former radio pirate in the Azores, Benevides said he fell in love with radio when he was 20. It was broadcasting illegally from the summits of São Miguel, trying to protect its signal from agents of the International and National Defense Police (PIDE), the Portuguese security agency that existed during the Estado Novo regime of António Salazar.

In 1965 he came to the United States. With limited English skills, he struggled to find work as an accountant, a profession he practiced in his native country. He spent a few years working as a carpenter at Naval Base Newport, before being offered a marketing consultant position for the Ford Motor Co. in that region. But he always had the secret desire to produce a program in the Portuguese language.

“It all started on May 31, 1970 at the WKFD in Kingstown,” he said. “Then I started broadcasting from my home studio. Years ago, I can’t remember how many, I moved to WALE, now known as WHTB.

Benevides will be 89 next month. When he hears of a need, he always goes on the airwaves to advocate for others to join the cause, but he is no longer involved in big campaigns like the ones he helped organize in the 1980s and 1990s.

In August 1997, Benevides was struck by a stroke which left him limping. His initial prognosis was for a moderate recovery starting six months after the incident. The show was never interrupted thanks to his collaborators Al Brum and Pedro Amaral. His willpower and determination did not get him back on the radio until three months later.

“Azores Madeira” is broadcast daily on WHTB at 2:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and Sunday until 2:00 p.m.

“I can’t imagine my life without radio,” he said. “It has provided me with a lot of friends and a lot of good things have happened to me.”


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