Austin International Special Events Society and the National Association of Catering Executives members gave themselves a huge helping of Christmas cheer by producing a joint fundraiser to benefit a family who was nomi-nated — but not selected as a finalist — for the Austin American-Statesman's “Season for Caring” campaign.
This family has had no shortage of hardship. Two disabled grandparents took on the task of raising their four granddaughters — ages 4 to 13 — since the girls' fathers are not in their lives and the mother has a drug problem. One child has sickle cell anemia and another has severe asthma, both of which require medication. The grandparents are also ill — one with rheumatoid arthritis and another with diabetes. The family rents a run-down house with a cracked foundation; the girls slept in beds so old they were held together with baling wire. But despite all these hardships, the three school-aged girls have been on the honor roll every semester since they moved in with their grandparents, and the 13-year-old is president of her school's student council.
Before the fundraiser, Austin Party Central — an Austin, Texas, event rental company — and ISES-Austin held holiday parties and raised $450 for the family.
The turnout for the joint fundraiser was terrific. More than 70 ISES and NACE members and their guests attended the event hosted by the iconic downtown-Austin music venue Maggie Mae's, which donated all the food and drinks for the event. An ISES board member deco-rated the room in silver spandex-covered cocktail tables with silver chiavari bar stools. The tables and room were lit with more than 100 votive candles, giving a soft warm glow to the chilly evening. NACE members designed floral arrangements of red and white blooms in square glass vases.
More than $3,000 was raised that evening through ticket sales ($15 each) and donations. Word spread quickly, with donations pouring in from families of ISES members; a large caterer took up a collection from its employees, who bought and wrapped gifts for each girl; an ISES-Dallas member shipped a used computer complete with software to Austin; gift cards for groceries and canned foods were also brought to the fundraiser. Premier Bridal, which hosted its launch party the following night, took up a collection as well.
Due to the generosity of so many people, Austin ISES and NACE were able to purchase four twin beds for the girls, two dressers, two rocking chairs, a king-size mattress for the grandparents, a washer and dryer, matching bed linen for all the beds, and a lot of clothes and toys; gift cards for groceries, gasoline, shoes, McDonald's and Wal-Mart were also donated. An Austin Party Central truck delivered the furniture, which was assembled by NACE members; members installed the computer as well.
A stretch limo donated by The Transportation Consultants de-livered the packages a few days before Christmas, then took the family to a holiday dinner with officers of ISES and NACE courtesy of the Embassy Suites Hotel. The four little girls squealed with delight at the sight of the limo, but the real treat was watching them open their stockings and be thrilled with each little item inside. “I just wanted these girls to have gifts to open this year,” the grandmother said. “I never imagined that you would do all of this for us. Please tell everyone how much we appreciate what they have done for us.”
For a holiday season that was dubbed “dismal” by the retail and event industries, it was a truly magical one for ISES and NACE members who understand that the true meaning of the holiday is love and compassion for people who are struggling. After all, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Name: Diane Lyerly
Company: Austin Party Central
Address: 8868 Research Blvd. Austin, TX 78758 USA
E-mail: [email protected]