Kate Patay, CPCE
Chair, SEARCH Foundation
For being forward facing through the coronavirus crisis and leading a strong board of volunteers at the SEARCH Foundation
When I was introduced to the SEARCH Foundation ten years ago, it spoke to me. It is a true give-back, helping people when they need it most. It exists to assist special event, meeting, catering, and hospitality professionals faced with a crisis, and when I became chair of the foundation in November 2019, there was no way to know that we would soon be in the midst of a pandemic when help is needed more than ever.
SEARCH was founded in the mid-1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic; then in 1997 it became a 501(c)(3) with the goal of helping industry professionals facing any type of medical crisis. Eight years later, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, SEARCH broadened its scope again to lend assistance after natural disasters.
On March 11, the night the president announced a ban on travel from Europe in his first major address on the coronavirus pandemic, we held our largest annual fundraising event, “Dress to Impress,” at Catersource + The Special Event conference, raising $60,000. During the board meeting at that event, we made the decision that we would bring on additional people to review crisis-relief cases because it is such a difficult time right now and there was a possibility of being inundated. The cases are confidential—reviewers don’t know who they’re judging. Typically, we have 9 to 11 people rotating through as reviewers, but now we have 20 to 25 on standby. With an increasing workload right now, we don’t want to overwhelm the members of the crisis relief committee with too much sadness or negativity.
My goals are to create even stronger partnerships, continue to raise awareness of the organization, and build a culture of giving. That’s where my branding background comes in. I love working on the messaging that will drive awareness and create amazing brand ambassadors, like the people who are part of our SEARCH 100—individuals and organizations that have pledged to support SEARCH on an ongoing basis. I jokingly say that SEARCH is the Switzerland of the events industry; we’re affiliated with almost every industry organization and conference out there, from the Professional Convention Management Association to the International Live Events Association, as well as TSE and IMEX, but we aren’t exclusively partnered with just one.
There’s a quote from Oprah Winfrey that I come back to again and again, and have framed on my wall: “Let excellence be your brand...When you are excellent, you become unforgettable. Doing the right thing, even when nobody knows you’re doing the right thing, will always bring the right thing to you.”
Best Business Advice
Don’t be afraid of change and know that you don’t have to do it alone. There are resources and people who can help.
Growing up, I had horrible grades in math because I could never show my work. My brain could get the right answer, but not in the way I was taught to do it. I’ve always had a creative way of looking at problems.
If I’m not close enough to water to throw on a scuba tank, I’m definitely going to pick up a book or find a way to recharge. I think you always need to prioritize taking care of yourself. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. I love taking care of other people, and I know that I have to be the best possible me to do that.