Life happens, and with it catastrophic events that can inflict financial misery on families.

Whether one is hit with a sudden illness or is a victim of a natural disaster, having a network of industry peers that can extend a helping hand can be a lifeline in times of trouble.

For those in the hospitality industry, the SEARCH Foundation is that lifeline.

Coming to the financial aid of those working in meetings, events, catering and other hospitality jobs, the SEARCH Foundation was founded in 1997 to assist those facing life-threatening illnesses, but since then its mission expanded to include any catastrophic occurrence.

“It’s very far reaching,” said Rick Turner, immediate past chairman of the SEARCH Foundation and regional director of business development for Extraordinary Events.

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“We want everyone to know that we’re there for anyone,” he added. “We’ve given to hotel housekeepers, front desk attendants, people who work in the laundry department for linen companies. Everyone helps us do our jobs and we’re there to give back.”

The SEARCH Foundation: A Lifeline, From Fires to Floods

Turner has been involved with the volunteer organization since 2010, having worked through catastrophic events such as fires in Canada, California and Texas, the numerous hurricanes of 2017, and floods in Tennessee. He frequently speaks about the organization at hospitality industry events, with his speaker’s fee donated back to the foundation.

To get the word out and stock the coffers, SEARCH Foundation partners with a variety of hospitality industry organizations and associations.

“We accept donations through our website, and have an annual fundraiser, and MPI, PCMA, SITE and ILEA [International Live Events Association] all have annual fundraising events where they give a portion of that money to SEARCH,” Turner said.

“It takes an army to do these memorable experiences for our clients and participants," he added. "We’re there to lend a hand when people need it.”

SEARCH Foundation Fundraising Event
SEARCH Foundation Fundraising Event

For Turner, who wears a SEARCH Foundation heart pin on his lapel, being approached by hospitality industry peers who have been helped by the organization makes it all worthwhile.

In fact, asking Turner about his lapel pin at PCMA’s Convening Leaders was how this writer discovered the SEARCH Foundation and Turner’s efforts.

“Once a year at least, I’m at an event and someone will see the heart pin on my lapel,” Turner said, “and perhaps a server will come up and embrace me and say, ‘Your organization helped me through a very trying time, and I want to thank you.’ That’s the real heartwarming part.”

[Making a Difference: Read more about those giving back in our industry].