EESF Annual Meeting
Wicked winter weather fails to stop participants from setting goals, mapping future.
A surprise winter storm failed to dampen Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) members’ resolve to map out the foundation’s future during the Annual General Membership (AGM) Meeting held February 10-12 at the Hilton Garden Inn Airport North in Atlanta. When all was said and done, most people who had planned to attend did so, although nearly all became temporarily stranded in Atlanta as more than 1,600 flights into and out of Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were canceled. Still smarting from criticism of their handling of a similar storm a few weeks before, Atlanta officials this time around opted to close all public schools, resulting in the cancellation of a planned Safe-T-Rider© presentation.
The weather was a frequent topic of conversation among attendees, making it the figurative elephant in the room throughout the meeting. Still, for nearly three days straight, participants engaged in lively and productive discussion about increasing awareness and financial support of EESF and fine tuning educational programs. “You’re coming to the board at a very exciting time,” John Koshak, board chairman, told new board members. “This is the year for action.”
On Monday afternoon and into the evening, executive board members – Koshak of Elevator Safety Solutions LLC, Treasurer Gary Saxon of Schindler, Ricia S. Hendrick of Elevator World, Inc. and Barbara Allen of the EESF – reviewed the AGM meeting agenda and made several key decisions, including:
- Changing the annual campaign reporting period from calendar to fiscal year, which arranges contributions and program delivery consecutively, in turn simplifying bookkeeping.
- Resolving to aggressively pursue payroll deduction contributions through a program centered around a 3-min. informational video; Koshak elaborated:
“This informational video explains EESF to viewers by showing actual participation of children, the basic structure of verification and efficacy. It finishes with an appeal for contributions [and is designed] to be used by company owners, regional groups, BOMA International chapters and International Union of Elevator Constructors personnel. It is a short and charismatic video designed to get EESF into the industry with a consistent message.”
- Setting aside funds to hire a fundraising development director to promote and manage the informational video and other programs
- Adopting a moderate budget and setting a goal to increase the reach of the Safe-T-Rider program to 600,000 children in 2014
The executive board looked at the 2013 program, which, with 514,000 students reached, exceeded EESF’s goal. They resolved to clarify EESF.org web data, and discussed the cost, reasoning and logistics of a complete brand overhaul, including the Safe-T-Rider program, a move that some in the industry feel is needed. They went over the audited budget in preparation for its presentation to members, and also the history and recent performance of its four free programs – Safe-T Rider for children, A Safe Ride® for adults, Rise Up Safe Rider for university students and National Elevator Escalator Safety Awareness Week for the public.
Koshak brought up the importance of increasing awareness about the foundation and its mission “to educate the public to ride elevators, escalators and moving walks safely through informational programs,” an endeavor in which he feels the informational video, viewed during the meeting, will play a key role. He illustrated the awareness issue by describing a recent visit to a company in which “five hands out of 139” went up in response to being asked whether they know what EESF does. EESF has had particular fundraising success with Southwest Region of ThyssenKrupp Elevator’s voluntary payroll deduction program, and would like to replicate it with the help of the video, which earned applause from the executive board members.
With cancellation of the school visit and the EESF Canada board meeting leaving the morning open, your reporter took the opportunity to tour the elevator system of the Hyatt Regency downtown, located in an iconic John Portman-designed building that ushered in a new era of hotel architecture featuring soaring atriums and striking elevator systems. Look for a story in an upcoming issue, featuring the reopening of the rotating Polaris bar atop the Hyatt (and, of course, a glass, birdcage-style elevator to take you there!).
Meanwhile, EESF members continued to arrive by both plane and car, gathering in the Hilton restaurant for a lunch of fettuccine alfredo with grilled chicken before they retired to the boardroom for new board member orientation and continuation of the executive board meeting. Although some view the program as dated, second-grade children are both entertained and informed by Safe-T-Rider, the group observed. Treasurer Saxon stated, “The kids are excited, and its gets you excited. When [Safe-T-Rider] comes out, it’s like Bozo the Clown just came out. It’s amazing.” Besides being fun, it also results in children retaining safety tips that are typically passed on to friends, siblings and parents, they said. Brian Stitle of Aon had volunteered to don the Safe-T-Rider costume for the demonstration and said he was disappointed he would not get to do so and “feel like a rock star.”
The most effective fundraising efforts were also discussed, with golf and boat outings, particularly in large cities such as New York City (NYC) and Chicago, deemed most successful. Koshak talked about how 2014 Fundraising Chairman Steve Wurth of Wurtec Inc. leads by example and uses his national influence to inspire others to believe in the mission and donate.
Attendees took turns giving short biographies of themselves and their careers. There were people from Chicago, NYC and Toronto, as well as the Atlanta metro area. Bill Thomas of the Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority (MARTA) told the group about MARTA escalator mishaps becoming more prevalent during busy holiday travel times such as Thanksgiving, and that he would talk to his director about placing EESF signage, stickers and medallions on MARTA equipment. He said he felt such efforts could be part of MARTA’s ongoing rebuilding efforts.
It was re-emphasized that elevator/escalator safety often takes a backseat, particularly in elementary schools, to issues such as bullying and drugs, but Martha Hulgan of MMH & Associates LLC observed that recent serious accidents – such as a fatal one in Montreal in January – have increased awareness. The day culminated with a traditional Southern fried chicken and pot roast feast. The Hilton staff deserves kudos for preparing delicious food and keeping events running on schedule, despite their being understaffed due to the weather.
The AGM meeting dominated the day from 8-5, during which a thorough overview of the budget, financial results and fundraising efforts were given. The final order of business was the swearing in of new board members. The long meeting day was followed by a dinner party at Malone’s Bar & Grill. Outfitted with snow tires, the Hilton shuttle saved guests from walking several blocks over slippery ice to reach the restaurant. While icicles hung from patio tables outside and the snow-covered streets looked like something out of a Dickens novel, all was cozy indoors, where EESF supporters were treated to a dinner of chargrilled steak and fettuccine with jumbo shrimp. Conversation flowed and a good time was had by all, marking the conclusion of a very memorable annual meeting. Observed Glenn Duncan of Parts Specialists Inc.: “This year’s meeting will go down in history as the time Atlanta shut down, but it didn’t stop us from handling [EESF] business.”