Event Pros Make a Difference in NOLAPosted Aug 21, 2012 Feature Story
For Mark Wells, the moment he remembers most vividly is coming across Shelley Rose in her newly decorated bedroom. She was reflecting on the five generations of her family who had lived in this house, and wondering how future generations would be affected by the gift Wells and his comrades had given so unselfishly.
“Shelley was crying tears of gratitude,” Wells says. “She realized that although she had worked hard her entire life to keep her family safe, this time she had to rely on others to help her re-establish her vision.”
The “others” included a team of nearly 60 people from Event Pros Take Action (EPTA). Organized in 2011 by event planners Stacey Mehalik and Susie Perelman, EPTA completed its second mission in New Orleans last month, helping to refurbish and decorate two homes destroyed by the infamous Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They also helped to distribute kitchen gift baskets to 10 other affected homes in the neighborhood.
It’s all part of EPTA’s mission: to provide a way for event professionals to give back to the community. The 2011 project involved 30 volunteers who helped gather and distribute more than 15,000 donated products to 250 homes. This inaugural effort was so successful that the group returned in 2012 with double the volunteers and $25,000 in donations.
Major donors included AFR Event Furnishings with a $20,000 donation, Rentals Unlimited and Mosaic, Inc. Other donors included A-1 Tablecloth, American Turf & Carpet, AFX Pro, Absolute CSI, Hospitality Source Group, Intellievent, Liberty Party Rental, Panache, a Classic Party Rental Co., Premier Beverage, Taste Buds, The Event Production and Verterra.
Richard Carbotti of Perfect Surroundings in Newport, Rhode Island, and Mark Wells of Hello-Florida in Orlando again assumed the roles of “Design Angels,” designing and refurnishing the homes, meeting the families, and celebrating with them following a ribbon cutting. Meals for the families were prepared by New Orleans celebrity chefs John Besh, Brian Landry, Gerard Maras and Greg Reggio. And the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) added about 10 volunteers, taking advantage of the fact that their national conference was being held in New Orleans at the same time.
Was it worth all the time effort and resources? Most certainly, according to Trish Schmitt of AFR Event Furnishings. “EPTA is really grass roots-oriented,” she says. “Their efforts have immediate impact. They touch people’s lives directly, which makes it a different experience than donating to a larger charity. With EPTA, you can see that you make a difference, and there’s something extraordinary about that.”
To watch a video of the 2012 mission,click here.