Posted on September 22, 2016 at 15:12
On Thursday, September 22, PTI 5K 10K on the Runway race co-chairs May Gayle and Paul Mengert of AMG, Association Management Group, one of the Carolinas’ largest professional homeowner association (HOA) managers, presented a check for $100,000 to 2016 PTI Run beneficiaries: Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC, Greensboro Urban Ministry and Open Door Ministry of High Point. The money will support the nonprofits’ efforts to end hunger in the Triad through education, outreach and advocacy. This year’s event more than doubled last year’s fundraising efforts, from $40,000 in 2015 to $100,000 in 2016. The three charities received equal shares of the money.
The widespread hunger crisis in the Greensboro-High Point, N.C. metro area has weighed heavily on Paul K. Mengert’s mind for a long time. “We live in what we believe is the most advanced country in the world, in thriving neighborhoods, yet there are families who live and work within a few blocks or miles of us who don’t have enough food to feed their children,” said Mengert, president and founder of Association Management Group (AMG), a community association management company with offices throughout the Carolinas. “When people realize that basic human needs aren’t being met, at first they are shocked,” he added. “And then they want to do something about it.”
When Mengert, with his wife and co-founder May Gayle Mengert, volunteered to serve as event co-chairs for the seventh annual Piedmont Triad International Airport 5K/10K Run on the Runway on June 4, 2016, to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina and two of its partner food assistance agencies, Greensboro Urban Ministry and Open Door Ministries of High Point, he decided to dream big.
With his 31 years managing hundreds of communities in the Carolinas, he had direct experience with the depth of compassion of neighborhood volunteers. He knew he could tap into this spirit to make a difference in the lives of thousands of hungry individuals living in the Triad area.
Mengert suggested the Airport Authority’s Event Committee more than double last year’s $40,000 target, stretching this year’s goal to $100,000, banking on the belief that communities are committed to helping their neighbors. “This commitment became a reality when we more than doubled last year’s mark, raising over $100,000 for the food bank, and also placing the challenge of community hunger on everyone’s radar.”
The Serious Problem of Hunger
According to Clyde Fitzgerald, executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, hunger in the region has been a problem for a long time. “The advent of the great recession in 2008 had a very significant effect in this area,” he said.
Textile companies, furniture manufacturers and call centers, including Cone Denim, American Express and Thomas Built Buses, greatly downsized or left the area, eliminating vital jobs. “While high-tech jobs in medical and computer technology are being created in our area, most people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own don’t qualify for those new jobs due to a lack of education and skills,” Fitzgerald said. “This leaves thousands of families misplaced and hungry. Our goal is to provide food and hope to these individuals.”
The numbers are astounding. In 2009, Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina distributed seven million pounds of food to 135,000 people across the 18 counties the organization serves. The demand has grown to 300,000 hungry people, and thanks to the generosity of donors, the Harvest Food Bank served 28 million pounds of food this past year.
“This translates to more than 23 million meals, but even that huge number is not enough to meet the need,” Fitzgerald said. “This is why events such as the PTI Run on the Runway are so important to our community.”
A Regional Airport Focuses on a Regional Cause
Piedmont Triad Airport (PTI) is located at the hub of the Piedmont Triad region, situated between the cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point. In addition to its airline operations, the airport has earned a reputation as a regional leader in aviation manufacturing, maintenance and repair.
Alongside its fixed-based operation, Signature Flight Services, PTI is home to Honda Aircraft Company, which established its world headquarters at the airport in 2006; HAECO Americas, Inc., one of the largest independent commercial jet maintenance and repair service providers in the world; and Cessna Aircraft Corporation, which houses its major service center for Cessna owners in the FedEx mid-Atlantic states.
“The Run on the Runway community service project began more than seven years ago after the addition of the newest runway, which was built in support of our mid-Atlantic hub location,” recalled Airport Authority Chairman Steve Showfety. “For the first five years, the beneficiary of the event was a national organization. We are a regional airport with roots deep in the Triad, and two years ago decided we wanted to make a difference right in here in our region,” Showfety added. “We chose to support Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina and two of its partner agencies: Greensboro Urban Ministry and Open Door Ministries of High Point.”
Dreaming Big and Inspiring Involvement
PTI Executive Director Kevin J. Baker vividly remembers when Mengert challenged the event committee to dream big. “We were very proud of how we raised $20,000 for the Food Bank two years ago, and then doubled that figure to $40,000 the next year,” Baker explained. “However, when Paul challenged the event committee to try to hit the $100,000 mark, I raised my eyes in amazement, but the team rose to the occasion. I give Paul credit,” Baker added. “He set a lofty goal and then led the team to achieve it. And he did it with a mixture of sponsors and donations from the community.”
Mengert said it was sort of like John F. Kennedy vowing to put a man on the moon. “Kennedy didn’t know the details, but he was able to inspire a generation of scientists to literally shoot for the moon,” Mengert said. “That is how I felt about our $100,000 goal. I didn’t quite know the details of how we would accomplish this fund-raising effort, but I knew we could inspire our community to work harder to raise more money for this critical cause.”
Gathering Sponsors Large and Small
Mengert and the team first approached the presenting sponsor, VF Corporation, and challenged the company to increase its level of sponsorship. “It enthusiastically met the challenge, which kick-started the entire effort,” Baker said.
Mengert and his team also inspired four Platinum sponsors -- Honda Aircraft Company, Michael Baker Company, ITG Brands and Tuggle Duggins Law Firm -- to increase their donations, and the companies generously met the challenge.
“Paul and the committee were able to attract new sponsors, with many pledging between $1,000 and $2,500,” Baker said. “In all, more than 60 businesses and organizations helped to sponsor this year’s run.”
Mengert said he was particularly touched by the participation of many smaller donors who gave between $100 and $1,000, plus two very generous anonymous donors. In addition, he points to the “incredible leadership of the airport, which inspired every single airport employee to contribute to the food bank. From executives to janitors to parking attendants to security personnel, every single employee contributed to the cause.”
The Chance to Race on a Runway
Mengert also spoke of the dedication of the nearly 1,300 runners from the community who came out to compete. “Their dedication reflects the depth of compassion in the Triad,” Mengert said.
In addition to the registration fee, participants in the 5K and 10K were asked to bring two non-perishable food items when they signed up for the run. As a result, the event collected nearly a ton of food to be distributed to those in need.
Baker noted that putting on the race itself required “literally a cast of hundreds” to handle all of the many details. “We are proud of the team that came together to make this race a reality,” he said.
Showfety called the race a spectacular event. “We had a lot of aviation-related exhibits on the runway, including the new Honda business jet, which is manufactured here in Greensboro and is Honda’s first airplane,” Showfety said.
One of the main draws of the race is the opportunity to run on an actual runway. “It makes for a unique experience,” Baker said.
Feeding the Less Fortunate
Showfety noted that Mengert’s enthusiasm and leadership proved vital in making the event a success. It also allowed the airport to more closely align with its service area and the constituents it serves. Fitzgerald noted that for every dollar donated, the Food Bank and its partner agencies can provide seven nutritious meals.
“The $100,000 raised translates into 700,000 meals to help meet a pressing and urgent need for people who require food assistance,” Fitzgerald said. “This is a significant event for our food bank and our partners. We are grateful for PTI and for Mr. Mengert, who did an outstanding job of almost tripling the revenues generated by the race.”
For Mengert, meeting the fundraising goal only confirmed what he already knew about community engagement and involvement.
“We have the privilege as a company that manages community associations to work with fine groups of people who desire to lead their communities and help their neighbors, so I already had a good sense of the commitment to help others that people from our communities feel and share,” Mengert said.
“So I can tell you I am not surprised that when given a vehicle and opportunity to help people, communities from the Triad were excited to step up,” he added. “And every bit helps. We need to work together to come up with innovative ways to address and solve problems such as hunger, which exists right in our backyard.”
PHOTO CUTLINE: (top photo) AMG founders Paul and May Gayle Mengert, co-chairs of the June 4 PTI 5K 10K on the Runway race to benefit the hungry, recently met with their race committee: (1st row, left to right): Cheryl Ledford, Greensboro Urban Ministry; Debbie Clark, Second Harvest Food Bank; Lea Metz, Second Harvest Food Bank; Clyde Fitzgerald, Second Harvest Food Bank; Steve Showfety, Chairman, Piedmont Triad Airport Authority; May Gayle Mengert, AMG, Event Co-Chair; Paul Mengert, AMG, Event Chairman; Jo Sanderlin, WKRR/WKZL;Ron Miller, Consultant RMA; Stephanie Freeman, Marketing and Customer Relations; Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, Doreann Smith; Director of Finance and Administration, Piedmont Triad Airport Authority; (second row, left to right): Steve Key, Open Door Ministries; Drew Hancock, Board Member Piedmont Triad Airport Authority; Don Webb, Vice Chair, Piedmont Triad Airport Authority; Scott Bassett, On the Mark Sports; Leslie Graham, Open Door Ministries; Jim Himes, WGHP Fox 8; and Kevin Baker, Executive Director, Piedmont Triad Airport Authority.
Second photo: Paul and May Gayle Mengert
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