by Leo Jakobson | September 28, 2018

A new charitable organization has been created to recognize and honor the hospitality industry's frontline employees who work hard to make meetings and events not just successful but extraordinary.

The Above and Beyond Foundation is the brainchild of Mary Jo Blythe, who was looking for a way to give back to the industry she had worked in for many years before selling her meeting and event planning firm, Masterplan, two years ago. To do that, she gathered a board comprised of meetings and events industry leaders and set out to create an organization that would recognize, reward and assist "the line-level workers who are the core of our business," Blythe says. "They are working really crazy hours and it's hard for them to get ahead because they don't make a lot of money yet. I think the average wage is $13.86 per hour." 

TAABF recipient Sabrena Morgan is a housekeeping inspector at the Four Seasons Hotel Denver.

What TAABF hit on was the Heart of Hospitality Award, which comes with a $10,000 grant, for employees who are doing a really great job, Blythe says. The first two winners of these grants used them to help move her family from a trailer into a house, have a merrier Christmas and pay off bills. Winners are nominated by senior executives in their company, and then the board goes through the applications to pick winners.

"Our industry is one that requires an it-takes-a-village approach to create 'the magic' of our travel experiences," says board member Lynn Pavony, director of incentive sales at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. "Within that village we have so many passionate people who are not always in the spotlight of our guests and recognized for their contribution. When above and beyond behavior is recognized it is contagious in creating a customer-centric culture that betters our industry."

In the future, TAABF has plans for other awards based on things like special needs, hardship, childcare and other categories, but for now the focus is on getting the Heart of Hospitality Award recognized in and supported by the wider hospitality industry, says Blythe, who notes that the group is an IRS-registered 501 (c) (3) charity. One new category of award TAABF is working on is a corporate social responsibility program, in which a MICE group could award a grant to someone who worked behind the scenes on their meeting or event  a housekeep, line server, coach driver, tour guide or anyone else working on making that group's experience a success. 

TAABF is accepting donations to make its awards possible, and intends to give out as many quarterly awards as possible. For more information, visit taabf.org