The PPAI Expo’s busy schedule this week began with a day dedicated to the volunteers who support the industry and the regional associations that serve it. On Sunday, the accomplishments of industry professionals serving on PPAI’s committees and board of directors, the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF) and the Regional Association Council (RAC), were celebrated at the Volunteer Recognition Luncheon.

PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, opened the program with a quote from a recent blog post by author, entrepreneur and marketer Seth Godin. It read, “Look in the obvious places first. That makes sense, because the obvious solution is obvious because we’ve learned how to solve problems like these. … Here’s the thing: if the problem is a longstanding one, if it hasn’t been solved in a while, then the places you think are obvious aren’t, because they’ve already been tried. As time goes on, the most likely site of the solution is further and further away from what you would have guessed. So, begin there instead. That’s the new obvious place. Hint: it’s probably a place that feels uncomfortable, risky or difficult.”

Recognizing both the headway that industry practitioners have already made and the challenges set before them in their field, Bellantone said, “It’s time for us to get really uncomfortable.”

Fortunately, the industry is served by volunteers who offer guidance and leadership as it navigates changes with markets, the economy, technology and other factors. Bellantone said, “The volunteer community is comprised of influential thought leaders, passionate about making a meaningful impact, not only within the Association, but also across the industry. Through your volunteer leadership and efforts, professional growth happens, camaraderie thrives and partnerships make the difference.”

The term for PPAI Chair Brittany David, MAS, ends at the conclusion of Expo 2020. During her one-year term as board president, David, the vice president of sales at West Jordan, Utah-based supplier, SnugZ USA, crisscrossed the globe and industry in service of the Association and its members. She also led the board through several initiatives and transitions, which Bellantone noted, were “all done with a combination of presence and execution.”

Bellantone was joined on stage by David and Brandon Mackay, MAS, president of SnugZ USA and a former PPAI board member himself. In thanks for the time and energy David dedicated to the board and Association that took her away from her role at SnugZ, PPAI presented a donation to SnugZ’s favorite charity, the Five.12 Foundation, which provides food and supplies to students in need.

Reflecting on her year and speaking about the community of volunteers who support the industry and its associations, David said, “Look to your left. Look to your right. These are your people.”

David also welcomed her successor to the stage, incoming board chair Ira Neaman, MAS, founder and president of Avenel, New Jersey, supplier Vantage Apparel, saying, “After an unforgettable year of serving the Association, it is time for me to turn the role of chair over to someone I have grown to respect so much. He has been an incredible board member, constantly challenging us to think differently and question the status quo. I know that PPAI will move forward in so many ways under your guidance along with the entire board and staff of PPAI.”

Neaman, whose term officially begins at the conclusion of Expo 2020, said, “I truly appreciate the fact that the first role I have as chair is to greet each of you. I’m passionate about the impact our volunteers have on our industry and our Association. … These successes would not be possible without the work of each of you in this room. Since many of us are in sales, you won’t be surprised to hear me say, ‘but what are you going to do this year?’”

The luncheon singled out several groups for recognition and congratulations. It inducted an additional 16 individuals into PPAI’s 1,000-plus strong group of PPAI Fellows, a group of industry professionals who have contributed their time and talent in a variety of volunteer roles for many years, the PPAI Fellows. It highlighted the accomplishments of outgoing board members Perry Wehrle, MAS; Jim Hagan, CAS, and Immediate Past Chair Dale Denham, MAS+; and welcomed incoming board members Dawn Olds, MAS, and Kevin Walsh, CAS, and at-large director Vera Muzzillo, CAS. The luncheon also recognized those volunteers whose committee terms will conclude at Expo 2020.

David made special mention of Jeff Thomas, MAS, chair of the Promotional Products Disaster Recovery Foundation (PPDRF), who is stepping down from the position after several years of championing and advocating for the group. She also welcomed on stage the RAC board members and the PPEF trustees, highlighting new members of both groups joining in 2020.