More than $63,000 has been raised to fund grants that will support frontline hospitality workers in 2023. The funds were amassed during a year-end auction hosted by The Above and Beyond Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rewarding hospitality employees.
"We're super excited because this is really sets us up for our 2023 grants," said Mary Jo Blythe, founder and CEO of TAABF. "Obviously we will continue to fundraise and to look for grant sponsors, but having this in the bank allows us to start off the year with a plan."
The auction was held both online and in person, with the support of Northstar Meetings Group. Travel industry partners donated hotel and resort stays, golf and spa packages, restaurant certificates, incentive gift merchandise and more.
The live auction was held on the evening of Dec. 13 at Northstar's annual Leadership Forum at the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Calif. The evening culminated with the distribution of grants to three of the property's deserving employees.
Jorge Cortez, a painter on the engineering team who has been employed at the resort for 27 years, received the $10,000 Heart of Hospitality grant. He is hearing-impaired, and takes several buses to travel to and from work. Even so, he is always among the first to arrive on-site, according to his manager's nomination, which also praised his diligent work ethic, contagious passion for the industry and compassionate spirit.
Two other staff members were honored with $3,000 Heart of Hospitality grants: Elba Perez from the housekeeping department and Raul Montes, who works as a chauffeur. Both have been part of the hotel's team for more than a decade.
"Since we started this, even before Covid, the feedback that we got from employers was that it did so much to boost morale and to emphasize how important these people are not only to their employers, but also to our industry," said Blythe.
She noted that the importance of TAABF's grant programs only multiplied during the pandemic and the ongoing staff shortages left in its wake.
"People are working so hard, often doing the jobs of three employees," she said. "Something like this helps renew faith that this is a great career and there is recognition and reward for those efforts."
Looking ahead to 2023, Blythe hopes to build on the success of the auction and raise $100,000 in total grant funding, which will be used to continue supporting the employees who are the backbone of the meetings industry.