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Event pros on a mission: event industry gives back

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Although only a year old, Event Pros Take Action (EPTA), formerly Operation Outreach, has already made a difference in the lives of two families, and volunteers and supporters are preparing for another effort this summer.

Susie Perelman, owner of Pittsburgh, Pa.-based linen company Mosaic, and Stacy Mehalik, also of Mosaic, founded EPTA in 2011 to bring together the event industry to give back to people in need. The charitable organization focuses its efforts on communities that have experienced a natural disaster and are in the recovery process. EPTA worked with St. Bernard Project in New Orleans, La., for its 2011 mission and will return in July with partner National Association of Catering Executives (NACE), which is encouraging those attending NACE Experience! in New Orleans to stay an extra day after the July 16-18 conference to join the mission.

As of mid-February, EPTA had raised $26,600, enough to underwrite a home for one of its partner families, and was on its way to covering the costs for a second family, with a total goal of $30,000. The current drive includes $100 and $150 kitchen/bathroom baskets that can be sponsored any time before the July mission.

“If there is one thing we have learned from the first mission, it is how incredibly satisfying and life changing it is to be able to get in there and make a difference,” Perelman says. “Once you see the looks on the families’ faces, the smiles, the tears of joy and gratitude, you will never be the same. We are changing the quality of life for families in need. For all the suffering Katrina victims have endured, these families deserve to move on with their lives and close a chapter in their lives. Knowing this is what drives us to make 2012 even bigger and better than last year.”

“We went down to New Orleans last summer to give, but we left with gifts from a community that is determined to rebound from environmental and personal despair,” Mehalik says. “Participants in our mission learned lessons in resilience and the value of community and we cannot wait to go back next summer!”

AFR Event Furnishings has presented EPTA a check for $20,000 and will again offer furnishings for two homes this summer. Richard Carbotti of Perfect Surroundings Inc. and Mark Wells of Hello Florida will reprise their roles this year as “design angels,” the ones who bring the design vision to life for two families in need. Shari Lynn Rothstein-Kramer of SLK Creative will again lead the PR charge. Also presenting significant contributions is Larry Green, of Rentals Unlimited, and Mosaic. Both companies will take leadership roles in the 2012 mission. Additional support has come from A-1 Tablecloth Co., American Turf & Carpet LLC, Atlas Party Rental, Hospitality Source Group Inc., IntelliEvent, Liberty Party Rental, and Panache, a Classic Party Rental Co.

The group took its message on the road in recent months, with show booths at The Special Event 2012 in January and Catersource/Event Solutions Idea Factory in February.

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