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The Industry Gives Back

We thought it was an especially appropriate time of year to share your efforts and show how the custom electronics industry delivers the gifts that keep on giving.


Custom Electronic Systems in Dallas helps the American Fallen Soldiers Project devoted to helping families who have lost a soldier on the battlefield. In the program, artist Phil Taylor paints a large portrait of the fallen soldier for the family. He researches the soldiers’ life and makes the portrait really “who that person was,” according to Liz Barr at Custom Electronic Solutions.

Share Your Charity Stories!
We are sharing stories about the charity work conducted by members of the custom electronics industry. Our December issue marks the first annual CE Pro Charity Issue. We…
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Why is the custom electronics industry so giving? It might be because so many are small entrepreneurs so they know what it’s like to struggle. Or perhaps it’s because integrators, distributors and manufacturers design and construct cozy and safe areas where families tend to gather, so they have the ability to offer their services and equipment versus just supporting a charity with money. In many cases, an individual in the industry has a personal connection to a specific cause because of a friend or family member.

The philanthropy from the industry ranges wide, benefiting abused children to cancer groups to veterans. And the giving spirit is much needed as the nation tries to recover from recession. A recent report from the Association of Fundraising Professional and Urban Institute shows that in 2011, the “net gain in giving” for charities in the U.S. was $0. Meaning, for every $100 a nonprofit gained in 2011 from new donors, it lost $100 from donors who had previously given in 2010. That net-zero level was actually a big improvement over 2010 and 2009. Moreover, the survey says on average, 60 percent of all donors to a particular charity do not contribute again.

According to one integrator, Jay Dobensky, owner of Strategic A/V Solutions/Advanced Home Audio & Video in Wolcutt, Conn., there isn’t enough giving in the industry. “Those of us in the CE industry have been blessed with a rare skill set which in most cases allow us to earn a decent living. This same skill set also allows us to provide a ‘wow factor’ for the sure compensation of a clear conscience and a happy heart. I think that if anything there is not enough giving within our industry - and I may draw some ire in stating that - but we as a collective group have the capacity to provide enjoyment to all ages and benefit to an extremely wide cross-section all across the globe, with technology perhaps only being secondary to medicine in its integral nature within the framework of today’s world.”

When a person gives, not only does the charity get a welcomed donation, but the donor himself evokes positive vibes for himself, his company and his employees - often it becomes a unifying and motivating effort. So in the spirit of the holiday season, CE Pro thought it was about time we shared some heart-warmingly positive stories about the custom electronics industry.

Helping Children Is a Favored Cause

Among the favored charities of integrators are ones dedicated to helping kids, either those who are ill or disadvantaged. Maybe it’s because many in the industry are “kids are heart.”

CE Pro Gives Back
CE Pro is donating 5 percent or $5,000 of its advertising revenues from the December issue of CE Pro to CEDIA’s Randy Vaughan Memorial Scholarship Fund. The program, which was instituted last year by the association in honor of recently deceased past president Randy Vaughan, offers scholarships to two youths each year to help them pursue a career in the custom electronics field.

One Firefly LLC, a design, programming and marketing firm based in Hollywood, Fla., was recently inspired by Segway creator Dean Kamen’s appearance at CEDIA Expo to help the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) foundation. The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs; namely, the construction of robots in teams that compete with one another in performing skills tests. A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST was founded in 1989 by Kamen, an inventor, entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for science and technology, to design accessible, innovative programs that motivate and inspire young people. To date, the organization has reached more than 250,000 students.

“Dean’s compelling story, passion, goals, objectives, tactics and demonstrated results inspired us to get engaged and we are on track to be a success case of what company involvement for other members of our electronics systems industry can be,” says Seth Rubenstein, director of business development at One Firefly. “We are committed to supporting FIRST through financial sponsorship of technology kits as well as time invested in mentorship of local teams.”

Rubenstein and CEO Ron Callis are taking the most active roles. Callis has committed to mentoring at least one team in South Florida (On IT Foundation) and supports the mentoring of a team in the Atlanta area as well, where Rubenstein is based. Additionally, One Firefly is attempting to facilitate a model for engagement for others in the custom electronics industry. Already, others who have pledged to engage with FIRST include current CEDIA chairman Federico Bausone of Multimedia, Steven Brawner of ProAudio GA, Adam Zatorski of King Systems, Kaloma Smith of Home Theater of Long Island, George Katsiris of Savant, Richard Millson of Millson Technologies, Marwan Moubarak of Federal Technologies, Clare Ward of CWD, Rochelle Howard of Ellehcor, Ty Meyer of AVD, and Laura Mitchell of Grand Care Systems.

AMX recently worked with the Dallas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) group, a nonprofit organization of volunteers who are voices for abused children in court. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children while in protective care.

AMX partnered with Southwest Displays & Events to build a high-tech playhouse, dubbed “Fort Frontier,” complete with an AMX wireless intercom and AMX Metreau Entry Communicators that enable the occupants to talk with the main house. The playhouse was later raffled, with all proceeds going to CASA.

Fort Frontier features swinging saloon-style doors, a balcony and a host of amenities like an old-time saddle sawhorse, cowboy/cowgirl costumes plus toy rifles and cap guns.

imageJeff Kindig, AMX vice president of marketing strategy, and other AMXers have fun building the playhouse. (Click image to enlarge)

“This was our first year to build a playhouse to be included in the charity’s raffle promotion with all proceeds going to the charity,” says Jeff Kindig, AMX vice president of marketing strategy. “In total, it took about two weeks to complete and we volunteered over 300 combined hours. We also donated some serious marketing communications horsepower in coordination with CASA to increase event awareness of the event. A local radio station even partnered with our playhouse to offer free airline tickets and a whole lot more.”

Within a week of the project completion, AMX’s press release had been picked up by multiple local and national news outlets. The playhouse was also part of a “Parade of Playhouses” event in the city that included a live radio broadcast. The company also posted a video on its Facebook page of the construction, and pushed it out via Twitter and LinkedIn. AMX even optimized its SEO.

The members of the AMX marketing department who took part include Kindig, Chris Bruce, Tony Couzelis, Suzanne Youngblood, Tahressa Ramos, Roderick Lucas, Kevin Spicer, Kent Wicklander, Kevan Ferguson, Lane Shannon, Craig Weymouth, Darryl Dalton, Jason Anderson.

View the 15 photos attached to this entry

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About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.


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