SEARCH Foundation Gives $1.3 Million to Those in Need

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Skift Take

Many industry foundations are dedicated to education and scholarships. Not the SEARCH Foundation — it helps industry professionals in crisis.

The SEARCH (Special Event Assistance Relief & Crisis Help) Foundation, a 501c3, has reached $1.3 million in funds given to industry professionals in need.  

The SEARCH Foundation helps industry members directly. This is unlike other associations that focus on scholarships and funding education and research. It was founded in 1997 as a safety net to help events, meetings, and catering professionals faced with life-threatening illnesses. Since then, it has expanded to include catastrophic occurrences as well.

The Maui wildfires devastated the resort town of Lahaina, killing 98 people and burning almost 3,000 structures to the ground. More than $140,000 was given to Maui events industry members impacted by the fires. 

“In the barren, singed, charcoal landscape which has suddenly become our lives, these funds are like blades of fresh new grass which have just begun to poke through the ash,” one of the recipients wrote.

The SEARCH bylaws says it needs to turn all qualified cases around within a week. Internally, it aims for 72 hours. In the case of the Maui fires, all funds were distributed in less than 48 hours, most of them in less than 24 hours. 

“I’m so proud of the work that this foundation does. Not only meeting but exceeding our distribution goals shows how our industry comes together when individuals need it most. The generosity of our donors and supporters makes this all possible,” says Kate Patay, CPCE, vice president of engagement, Terramar, a full-service event, destination, conference and meeting services company, and current chairwoman for the foundation.

Helping One Family at a Time

All grants are funded anonymously to protect the privacy of the individuals applying. At the SEARCH Foundation’s first post-pandemic live event in Miami in 2021, a catering staff member approached Patay. “He asked me if this was a SEARCH Foundation event. It turns out that we helped his family after he was in a horrific motorcycle accident in 2020,” says Patay. “With tears in his eyes, he shared that we helped his family keep a roof over their head and food on their table. I’ve had countless individuals come up to me at various events to thank the foundation, and every single one stays close to my heart. This one had me weeping.”

On February 14, 2024, the SEARCH Foundation will gather in Austin, Texas, to celebrate achieving its milestone of distributing over a million dollars to industry members in crisis.