Packing the ‘fun’ into fundraising travel

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If you have even one philanthropic bone in your body, you know the fundraising plight prolific among organizations and nonprofits.

A Wilson man has set out to change the fundraising scene with a new program at his business, Cruise & Vacation Planners. Owner Hans Hess started the company last year after serving as the manager of the Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport for 27 years and seeking to put his experience in the travel industry to work for others.

“What I first wanted to do was to have appreciation cruises for teachers, law enforcement, nurses and others, but what I found out was that it is hard to make it worthwhile,” Hess said. “When you have a five-night cruise, you have to have 100 people or more to make enough money to survive. Add to that the difficulty of getting teachers and such to book because of their schedules and the cost, so it just didn’t work and I redirected my focus on fundraising.”

There are a couple ways for groups to raise needed money: Hess donates a portion of his commission from the cruise lines to the group and the group can slightly mark up the price of the trip as a donation to the organization.

“The main way that money is raised is if a group gets together and books like a river cruise for 10 couples, the company will give them a cabin basically for free that the group can then sell,” he said. “With this program, I’m hoping we can give them a way to raise some money and go off on a trip, so it is a win-win for everybody.”

One such fundraising trip is a 10-night Royal Caribbean Alaskan cruise next May for West Nash United Methodist Church.

“There are a not a lot of travel agencies out there anymore, but there are folks who sell travel through their home, but it is primarily the five- or seven-night Caribbean cruises,” Hess said. “I focus more on the unique vacations like a European river cruise or a wine cruise through Europe.”

Through his office at the airport he used to manage, the 64-year-old father of five and first-time grandfather is hoping to fill a community need.

“In five years, I would love to have 30 or 40 groups going out,” he said. “I really do want to help groups because this is a good way for folks to raise money. I was in the Rotary Club and raising money always was one of the challenges.

“Everyone has a need and if I can help them fulfill that, I’ve filled my objective.”

For more information, visit www.candvplanners.com/.

Statistically Speaking

Before I stray from the subject of travel, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina recently announced visitor spending increased in 97 counties — including Wilson — in 2016 when compared to 2015.

“North Carolina is an exceptionally beautiful state loved by residents and visitors,” said Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit North Carolina. “North Carolina’s position as the sixth most-visited state in the nation with more than 48 million visitors in 2016 reinforces its status as a premier tourism destination.”

The report notes domestic visitors spent $22.9 billion across the state in 2016, an increase of 4.4 percent from the previous year. Wilson County followed the trend with a 3.91 percent increase in tourism spending at $115.6 million, which generated $6.9 million in state tax receipts and $2.21 million in local tax receipts.

Tourism jobs also increased from 830 jobs in 2015 to 860 jobs, generating $17.5 million in payroll for Wilson County.

And while the local unemployment numbers for July haven’t been released, the state rate was at 4.1 percent after a decrease of 0.1 percent from the seasonally adjusted rate for June. The national rate also decreased 0.1 percent to 4.3 percent in July.

Sleep Happens

Wilsonians will have a new place to buy a headboard, footboard and everything in between on Saturday.

The former Boston Market at 1705 Raleigh Road Parkway has been under construction for the past few months as the eatery was transformed into Mattress Warehouse. The chain with 215 locations in seven states will celebrate the newest store with a grand opening celebration at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Mattress Warehouse has a patented Bed Match system that uses 18 measurements plus scientific calculations to help staff dubbed sleep specialists to narrow down the hundreds of mattresses to help ensure customers pick the best bed.

The chain is hiring full- and part-time employees with applications accepted at jobs@sleephappens.com.

Extra! Extra!

Did you know Saturday is National Dog Day? Despite being a hardcore dog girl, I’ll admit this obscure “holiday” was not on my radar.

However, Lidl is working to raise awareness not only about the holiday, but for dogs in need with a cute campaign that takes little to no effort. The first way is by heading over to www.facebook.com/LidlUS/ and clicking ‘like’ on the live video posted at 10 a.m. Monday with the four-hour video of puppies playing.

By clicking ‘like’ by 9 p.m. Saturday, Lidl will donate a meal of dog food to two Operation Paws for Homes shelters, the North Carolina one of which is located in Alamance County. Another way to donate a meal to the shelters is by buying Orland-brand dry dog food through Saturday.

So if you’re having a ruff day, head over to watch the fluffy cuteness and support a good cause.

Got an idea for news to include in next week’s Main Street Minute? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 252-265-7821 or bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com.