Precede PITTSBURGH Class Reunion Organizers Scramble After Planning Company Fails
CHICAGO (AP) _ Class reunion organizers across the nation scrambled Friday to put together their own celebrations after the nation’s largest reunion planning company closed its doors.
″The DJ is out. We’ll bring in a stereo if we have to,″ said Gayle Shearer Smith, who is helping organize a reunion in Latrobe, Pa. ″We’re cutting corners, but there will be a reunion.″
Reunions, A Class Organization Inc., based in suburban Hoffman Estates, shut down last week. A letter mailed to creditors by a firm handling Reunion’s liquidation said the recession caused the company’s revenues to plummet, and that it was extremely unlikely any customers would receive refunds.
Reunions was the nation’s largest organizer of class reunions, according to officials at the Washington-based National Association of Reunion Planners.
The company’s collapse left in limbo about 119 celebrations scheduled this month, said John Kallergis, an accountant representing the firm’s largest investor. The investor’s identity was not disclosed, but the liquidation firm said it was owed $350,000.
Officials were unable to estimate the amount of money Reunions had collected for events that have not yet occurred, but it ranged up to more than $10,000 for some classes. Attorneys for the company did not return phone calls Friday.
The collapse left class members in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., trying to put together celebrations they had paid Reunions to organize.
Organizers sought help from local businesses, negotiated with hotels and other suppliers already scheduled to provide food and entertainment for their reunions, and hit up alumni for more money.
In Latrobe, the Elks lodge has agreed to accept payment over time for the use of its facilities. The Chicago White Sox are helping pay for a reunion planned by the firm at Comiskey Park’s Stadium Club, spokeswoman Barb Kozuh said.
Organizers, who are members of the classes planning to meet, said they have each lost thousands of dollars the company collected by selling tickets for the upcoming event.
″I was in shock. I just kept asking myself, what are we going to do? At the point I got the letter, I wasn’t even sure we had a place to have the reunion,″ said Beth Bakunowicz, chairwoman of the reunion committee of the East High School class of 1981 in Rockford, Ill.
Ms. Bakunowicz estimated her classmates had purchased at least $4,500 in tickets, and she said she didn’t expect to get any of the money back. North suburban Highland Park High School’s class of 1981 had purchased more than $12,500 worth of tickets from Reunions, Kozuh said.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and the Illinois Attorney General’s office are investigating Reunions’ collapse.