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    Submitted By:
Jeff Whitney

Event Transportation / Atlanta
Director, Senior Member Engagement
Member since 2002

August 2018 Grapevine

Neil Hibbert


Neil will be joining the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau as Director of Southeast Sales. He replaces member and long-time sponsor, Peggy Riley, CDME, upon her retirement. Neil enjoys running daily and tries to fit in a round of golf as much as possible. He also enjoys art, music, and reading books on history and leadership. Neil has held leadership positions with the National Sales Network Atlanta Chapter and SKAL International Atlanta. Additionally, Neil is a new board member serving as Chapter Director of Strategic Partnerships. He was looking sharp at the Phoenix Awards. Wonder what he’s going to wear on the links at the Fall Classic?



Anna Williams


Anna recently joined the Atlanta Conventions and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) as Sales Manager for National Accounts in the Midwest market. She will be handling citywide conventions of 1,200+ room nights. Hailing from Chicago, Anna has hotel and destination experience with Hilton and Hyatt properties. She spent the last 11 years at Juice Studios as the Associate Director of Sales.

Sara Justice DeBerry


Sara began a new role in April with W Hotels as Group & Catering Sales Leader as part of the Southeast Group Sales with Marriott Hotels. Sara started in the hotel industry in 1999 and was previously the Director of Group Sales for the W Atlanta Midtown.

Paulette Hopkins


Paulette has joined Proof of the Pudding as a Catering Sales Manager for one of their new accounts in Florida. Paulette recently worked as a sales consultant for the World of Coca-Cola and operated her own planning company, Total Meeting Resources, from 1989 through 2004; and since 2005 operated The Hopkins Alliance. Eleven years and counting, she continues to enjoy her role as an instructor with the Meeting and Event Management Certificate Course at Kennesaw State University (KSU) in the College of Continuing and Professional Education. And this foodie also serves on the advisory board for KSU’s culinary program.

Miranda Von Litolff


Miranda recently joined dynami group as a Meeting Coordinator. Previously she worked as an Event Concierge for the Bottle Top Suite at the World of Coca-Cola. Miranda is an engaged chapter volunteer and served as Co-Chair for the June 2018 Phoenix Awards.

Ginger Garner, CMP

  Ginger obtained a master’s degree in Hospitality Administration from University of Nevada-Las Vegas. She manages national conferences and regional events for the Middle States and New England regions of the College Board, a mission-driven, not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. The College Board has been her professional home for almost 17 years. She loves to travel and is excited to fulfill one of her mother's lifelong dreams and will be taking her parents to the British Isles next May. Her words of advice if you think about pursuing an advanced degree, "don't be intimidated by the admissions process. It can appear challenging from the onset, but once you've begun the process, all of the steps fall into place.Your growth is worth it!"

A message from Jeff Whitney

We all can relate to the cartoons below. Over the years Jeff Whitney has entertained us with his candor and provided a wealth of fun bits and accolades to celebrate our members. This month he is passing the torch to Carla Thomas-Carroll, Director of Global Sales with Salamander Hotels & Resorts. Jeff will continue to contribute to the ReConnect newsletter along with many other chapter initiatives. If you have any personal or professional news you’d like to share with the membership, please send an email to Carla or contact her by phone at 850.420.6589. 



May 2018 Grapevine


    Congratulation to MPI Georgia Vice President of Communications, Ashley Izydore Euler, CMP, and her husband Grayson Euler, on their Saturday, March 10th wedding at beautiful Barnsley Resort.  Ashley and Grayson became engaged on Saturday, June 10th, exactly 9 months prior to the wedding.  The couple took a short mini Honeymoon after the wedding for 2 days in Chattanooga, but the real honeymoon is coming up this month – they are spending two weeks in London, Paris & Croatia.  Be sure to congratulate Ashley on her wedding; we all wish them much laughter, love and happiness in the years ahead!

Food for Thought



March 2018 Grapevine

    Shout out to Nancy Wilkerson on her new position as National Sales Manager of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.  Nancy rejoined the resort sales team in January. During her career she has represented the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort for 20 years. Nancy is an excellent resource when planning your next meeting on the Emerald Coast. Based in Atlanta, she is responsible for fostering and developing business from Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, and the North Central states.  

  Lance Hornecker, CMP, CMM joined the Global Accounts team this month with Omni Hotels & Resorts. Lance was born in a beach town (San Diego) and raised in a casino town (Las Vegas), so it's only fitting that the hospitality business would be in his blood. He is excited to join the Omni team as a Global Account Director based in Atlanta. Lance is enthusiastic about heading back to where he left his heart in the hotel industry.

  Congratulations are in order to MPI Georgia President, Andy Williams, CMP, TMP of Destination South Meetings & Events. They are expecting a new addition to their family – a daughter. Cheers to Andy and his wife, Ryan.

Committee Showcase: CMP Study Group

As a NEW FEATURE monthly article, The Grapevine will highlight one of our chapter committees to share the amazing efforts they make on behalf of our members.

Connie Bergeron, CMP   
Site Selection Solutions, Inc.
Chair, CMP Study Group
Member since 1980

  Gregg Lauer, CMP   
Sr. Director, Event Management
Vice-Chair, CMP Study Group
Member since 1994

If you are a Certified Meeting Professional who earned your designation by taking the CMP Exam with other candidates in the same location on the same day, and if your certificate was issued by the Convention Industry Council, you may not realize the dramatic amount of change that has taken place in the CMP process over the last five years.

Who can CMP candidates turn to for the most updated, accurate information on earning their CMP designation? The MPI Georgia CMP Study Group Committee, founded in 1991, is a resource for planners and suppliers who desire to prepare for the CMP Exam. The committee has supported hundreds of candidates by leading Information Sessions, Application Boot Camps, and Study Group Start-Up Sessions. Thank you to our committee members who support and encourage our members:

  • Lesli Castaneda, CMP
  • Amber Dillard, CMP
  • Karen Ewing, CMP
  • Cynthia Gomes, CMP   
  • Jennifer Smith-Hicks, CASE, CMP
  • Adriel Jones, MA, CMP
  • Sandie Sears, CMP
  • Chris Yueh, CMP

We are appreciative of every one of the committee members, and especially thankful for Lesli Castaneda, CMP, who finds host venues for events. She also compiles and administers a final review quiz with additional questions provided by the study group members, and reminds CMPs of their year to renew their designation. Members of the committee must be CMPs and willing to protect the confidentiality of the candidates. Recertification is required every five years. A directory of all current CMPs may be found at the Events Industry Council website (formerly the Convention Industry Council).

Available to MPI Members and Non-Members Alike

CMP candidates are not required to be members of our chapter, although many have joined as a result of participating in the study group. There is a nominal $60 participation fee to join the study group.

Why Is CMP Important?

If you have any questions regarding the importance of having the CMP designation, ask anyone who is job hunting in the industry today. Events Industry Council research has illustrated that CMPs earn 10% more over the course of their careers. 

Where Can I Go to Learn More?

The CMP Study Group Committee schedules four groups per year. You can find the dates listed in the Resources section of the MPI Georgia website.  For more information on the Study Group or renewing your designation, please contact Connie or Gregg. On a special note, Connie founded the MPI Georgia CMP Study Group Committee in 1991. With over 40 years combined service, we are most appreciative to Connie and Gregg for their continued service and dedication to our chapter.


February 2018 Grapevine


Congratulations to Miranda Behner, Co-Chair of the 2018 Phoenix Awards. She got hitched to her handsome new husband, Nicholas von Litolff, on January 7. The wedding was held at The Champagne Cellar at Biltmore Estates. 

The couple first met at Cafe Intermezzo. They enjoy sharing game nights, outdoor festivals and activities, trying new restaurants, and traveling. 

As seen in the photo, Miranda and Nicholas love being “silly goof balls with each other.”

Congrats to the happy couple – may their future be filed with love, laughter, good health, and romance.  


How does our VP of Membership keep up these days? Congratulations to Steven Schumacher, Director of Sales with the Dunwoody CVB, and his wife, MaryKate. On January 11 they welcomed Quinn Cecilia weighing in at 6lbs, 15oz, and 19 inches. Hopefully, she’ll not be bald like her father – it takes a few weeks for the hair to grow in.

The sad news is that Steven has already recruited her into the New England Patriots fan club. We pray that she will grow into an independent woman, capable of shedding that horrendous ball and chain, and choose to “Rise Up” as a Falcon fan. 

We do expect that she will become a future leader in the meetings industry like her dad. 


Committee Showcase: Strategic Events

As a NEW FEATURE monthly article, The Grapevine will highlight one of our chapter committees to share the amazing efforts they make on behalf of our members.


 Jill Eisel

Legacy Lodge at Lanier Islands

Jason Bastow

Hyatt Regency Atlanta

Amber Dawson


Leah Spain

Legacy Ventures/Game-X

Cori Gunter

InTandem Promotions

Congratulations to Jill Eisel of Legacy Lodge at Lanier Islands. She chaired the 2016 and 2017 Fall Classic Tournament. The amazing team of dedicated volunteers once again elevated the event to a new level. Thank you to all volunteers and sponsors.


Guess Who?

This MPI Georgia member positively impacts our industry every day. She is a member of a meetings and events industry “family.” Our Mystery Member attended high school in Okinawa, Japan, and Albany, Georgia. For her first “job,” she served as social chair of Chi Omega sorority at NC State. She has also worked two Olympic Games.

When she ran in her first and only marathon, our Mystery Member finished in women’s top 50th percentile. She has one brother, two nieces, and a nephew. This world traveler has visited five of the seven continents. Current goal? To fill her passport with all seven continents. 

Who is this outstanding member? Send an email to Jeff Whitney. If you are the first person to know our Mystery Member, you just might win a special prize. 


November 2017 Grapevine

Congratulations and thank you to the following leaders who share their knowledge and expertise with KSU students participating in the Meeting and Event Management Certificate Program.

Kate Lastinger, CMP, CMM; John Foster, Esq.; Matt Clouser; Larry Greene; Allyson Wagner, CMP; Lance Hornecker, CMP, CMM; Paulette Hopkins, and yours truly, Jeff Whitney.


MPI Georgia has another savvy group of members who volunteer with the UGA hospitality program. Perhaps you know someone who would be a good candidate for the Event and Meeting Management Certificate Program.

A special thank you to Connie Bergeron, CMP; Gregg Lauer, CMP; Alesa McArthur, CMP; Adriel Jones, CMP; and Tim Barrett, CMP.


    Halloween Fun: Hats off. Costumes on. Meeting Expectations, MPI Georgia’s management company, took the “office party” to a whole new level. Thank you to this great team. Check out Captain America, Batman, and Robin, of course. 

Food for Thought

October 2017 Grapevine


Congratulations to Chris Bonnett, CHIA, CMP, Chapter Director of Communication. Earlier this month Chris joined Meetings & Incentives Worldwide as a Registration Project Manager. Chris was recently recognized as 2016-17 Chapter Leader of the Year and Planner Member of the Year. Thank you for your leadership, Chris.



Abby Freeman, CMP, recently joined MeetingAdvice as Senior Meetings and Events Manager. She is a frequent participant in our chapter’s outreach to the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB), and has volunteered in many key roles as a chapter board member over the years. Abby’s currently serves the chapter in the role of Vice President of Strategic Events. Congratulations, Abby. We know you’re a great addition to the MeetingAdvice team.

Food for Thought


Oh the woes of miscommunication.


September 2017 Grapevine

    Congratulations to MPI Georgia VP, Communications, Ashley Izydore, CMP, as she announces her engagement to fiancé Grayson Euler. Ashley and Grayson have been dating for 4 years, and became engaged on June 10th, in the kitchen of their new home. They are planning for a March 10, 2018, wedding at Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, GA.   
    Way to go, Laura. Community Outreach Co-Chair, Laura Pope Steele, CMP, has a new position as Conference Producer with OneStream Software. Her new company is a growing financial software company, headquartered in Michigan with a sales office in Atlanta. Laura is working on two growing user conferences; one in the US and one in Europe. In addition to Laura’s full-time job in hospitality, she and her husband take hospitality to another level at home, “we list our basement apartment on AirBnb and serve as hosts to the guests that come in from all over the US and world.”

Members Having Fun:  Look who’s been hanging out with fellow “Super Heroes.” Hello to Lisa Todd of the Westin Hotel Downtown. I suppose she feels feel pretty confident in regards to her safety these days. Looks like a fun gathering.

  • Amy Hokkanen (top left)
  • Ryan Wallace (top middle)
  • Pam Shepherd, CIS, CHSE       (top right)
  • Cynthia Alford, DMCP UGA Pup
  • Sara Justice DeBerry and hubby (bottom right)


August 2017 Grapvine


Congratulations to MPI Georgia member and Association Manager, Molly Werner Whobrey. She and her husband, Zach, celebrated the arrival of Beckett Liam Whobrey on Saturday, August 5, 2017.

Beckett weighed in at 7lbs 14ozs. Mommy Whobrey is doing well, and both she and Zach are no doubt beaming with pride and joy. Welcome to the world, Beckett.  

When Molly returns to Meeting Expectations after her pregnancy leave, she will have a new role within the organization.

    Tara Zeravsky, CMP, has taken on the role as our new Association Manager. We look forward to working with Tara and the amazing Meeting Expectations leadership team in elevating our chapter to even greater heights. Welcome, Tara – glad to have you as part of the MPI Georgia family. 


June 2017 Grapevine


Danny Bacher of Topper Worldwide, chapter annual sponsor, celebrates the birth of his daughter, Ella Liv Bacher. Ella was born on Friday, March 24, 2017, at 9:23 PM, and weighed in at a healthy six pounds. 


Chris Yueh, Director of Programs with the Atlanta Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, was married to the lovely Lena Amanti on Saturday, April 15, 2017, at Studio 887. The happy couple met playing board games. This gives a whole new meaning to “playing the field.” We wish Chris and Lena much happiness, laughter, and good health. 


Congratulations to MPI Member, Molly Whobrey, CAE, with Meeting Expectations. Molly serves as our Chapter Association Manager. Here’s the news – it’s a boy – expected early August. We wish Molly and her husband, Zach, best wishes as their family grows. When Molly returns from maternity leave she will take a new position within the company. Our new Association Manager will be Tara Zeravsky, CMP. 


What’s new with Patrick Williams, Director of Direction, PWP Studio? This summer he’ll be focusing on #ATL. PWP has been ROCKING events all over the globe, but Patrick plans to spend more time with his Atlanta industry friends in his favorite hometown venue. 

April 2017 Grapevine


Professional Advancement

Congratulations to Pamela Shepherd, CIS, CHSC, on her new position at the LA Tourism & Convention Board. Pam’s title is National Director, Hotel Sales, Southeast. 

Pam describes this area as “everything from Pasadena to Malibu, Santa Monica to Redondo Beach, and all things in between, plus Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and of course the sexy new Downtown LA.”

Over 150 new hotels opening in 2017 – in a city that is the hub of chic. Pam’s new role is to find meeting, incentive, and convention business for Los Angeles from Texas to the Carolinas.


Professional Advancement

Lance Hornecker, CMP, CMM, a seasoned sales, hospitality and meetings expert, has joined Meeting Expectations as vice president of sales. In his new role, Hornecker will build upon the companies’ key strategies and objectives, grow relationships with current and potential clients and drive growth for the company through sales initiatives.

“We are thrilled to welcome Lance to the Meeting Expectations team,” Meeting Expectations President Brian Meyer said. “Lance brings a breadth of sales experience and leadership, which aligns with our overarching company goals as we continue to expand upon our events management, association management and technology services.”

Lance has over 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry, with keen insight into food and beverage, hotel operations, sales and marketing. Most recently, he served as global account director for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. During his tenure, he secured more than 400 million dollars in business and won numerous sales awards, including the Excellence in Sales Award, and Sales Person of the Year. Lance served on the board of directors of Meeting Professionals International – Georgia Chapter (MPI Georgia) for seven years and held a variety of positions including president. MPI Georgia recognized his efforts with numerous awards, including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, the President’s Award, and Supplier of the Year (twice).




  GES Acquires ON Event Services

Global Experience Specialists (GES) has expanded its event production capabilities in North America with the acquisition of AV production and technology services business, ON Event Services. This latest expansion builds on GES' acquisition of Blitz Communications in the UK and sees it extend its global reach, with 85 facilities worldwide.

ON Event Services’ team of 225 members of staff support more than 1,000 events per year and look after around 800 clients including major brands such as Coca-Cola, INFOR, and World Financial Group. The firm is also the preferred in-house provider of audio visual services for 30 venues and six major concert facilities. ON Event Services will now operate as ON Services, a GES Company, and Stan Milner, president of the company, will continue in his role.

"ON Services and GES are a great fit. It was important for us to join a company with a similar focus on creating live experiences and dedication to client service," said Milner. "We are looking forward to working with the GES team to help clients create engaging events from start to finish. This provides great opportunities for our clients and our employees."

Click here to read the full article. 


The Butterfly Effect

As some of you may recall, we launched a community service project awhile back, and we have an additional update to share on our progress. 

MPI Georgia Member, Russ Lopinto, received an envelope that contained $50.00 cash to invest in a “good works” effort to pay it forward to a person or group that might benefit from the act of kindness it generates. 

Russ engaged in the project by purchasing a case of Girl Scout cookies which he then distributed to residents in distressed neighborhoods, primarily in Vine City. He also distributed cookies to military personnel coming home through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Russ’ thoughts on his experience: “I guess the real ‘Butterfly Effect’ will come true when one of the people that experience my outreach will think it is rewarding enough to do pay it forward. At the very least, it has been rewarding to me personally.”


March 2017 Grapevine


Congratulations to Miranda Behner on her new position at the World of Coca-Cola as Event Concierge of the Bottle Cap Suite. The private event space is the perfect choice for your business meeting or special gathering. The Bottle Cap Suite features a private entrance and two adjoining rooms with a total of 1,140 square feet of flexible meeting and event space.  


Big shout-out to Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, CFPMTracy continues to lead our industry’s knowledge and awareness of food allergies, dietary requests, and ensuring every meeting attendee has a delicious and nutritional meal that meets their special dietary needs. Tracy is featured on the cover of this month’s, The Meeting Professional Magazine, as she continues to better understand the importance of food and its impact on the meeting industry.


It is with great sadness we announce the passing of Steven Hughes. Steven served as the MPI Georgia Executive Director from 2002 to 2005. MPI Georgia experienced tremendous success and growth during his tenure including numerous Chapter of the Year awards, membership growth, and highly successful signature events.

Steven will be fondly remembered for his generous and kind hearted nature, and the many great years he put forth in support of MPI Georgia and Meeting Expectations. Of late, he was working with his father in their family business in Savannah, GA.

We honor Steven’s memory and his many contributions to the meetings industry at large.

The family suggests remembrances be made to the:
Coastal Conservation Association of Georgia – Stevie Hughes Memorial Fund
c/o Sea Island Bank
15 Lake Street, Suite 170
Savannah, GA 31411-2972

 2017 Allie Awards Winners

Congratulations to our fellow MPI Georgia members who won awards at this year’s Allie Awards, held on Sunday, March 5, 2017, at the Georgia Freight Depot. The name “Allies” was selected to represent all “allied” event companies in Atlanta working together for a common good: to promote excellence in event design, planning, and production.

The inaugural event was held in 1991 to a group of 185 event professionals in the Greater Atlanta area, during a broadcast of the Oscars, with awards presented during commercial breaks. That year there were few categories. But, each year since then, the committee has added new awards to recognize the growth and depth of our industry.

Bookmark this page as we will be linking snippets from the award recipients or click here for the event Facebook page with photos from PWP Studios.

BEST CULINARY INNOVATION    Ideas from On High   Proof of the Pudding
BEST MENU DESIGN          Tastes and Tunes of the South           Proof of the Pudding
BEST OFF-PREMISE CATERING   The Signature Hurricane    
  Proof of the Pudding
BEST ON-PREMISE CATERING   The Street’s the Place to Go               Proof of the Pudding
BEST EVENT INNOVATION   The Butler Wall       Bold American Events
BEST EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY   Making Spiderman Jealous   PWP Studio
BEST ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCTION (Over $20K)   Camp Ignite   Destination South Meetings + Events 
BEST THEMED/UNIQUE ENTERTAINMENT   Camp Ignite    Destination South Meetings + Events 
BEST EVENT: Corporation/Association (Under $100K)   Koningsdad: Kings Day … USA   Corporate Events Unlimited
BEST EVENT: Corporation/Association (Over $100K)   Camp Ignite   Destination South Meetings + Events
BEST TRADESHOW/CONFERENCE   IHG Winning With Wellness   Corporate Events Unlimited
LOGISTICAL ACHIEVEMENT - Planning   Camp Ignite   Destination South Meetings + Events 
BEST AV DESIGN   Rebrand Launch     Active Production and Design
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN   Lighting Design Takes Flight   MAGNUM
LOGISTICAL ACHIEVEMENT - Technical Production   Hi-Tech Campout   MAGNUM
BEST TEAM EFFORT - Corporate Event   Camp Ignite   Destination South Meetings + Events, MAGNUM, EastCoast Entertainment, Absolute Entertainment
BEST TEAM EFFORT - Wedding Event    Married in the Mountains   Active Production and Design, Event Rentals Unlimited


February 2017 Grapevine


Congratulations to Matthew Thomas. He was recently promoted to partner with EastCoast Entertainment (ECE), a nationally recognized entertainment booking agency and event production firm.

 When asked about his new role, he says, “The opportunities I have had here at ECE have seemed to be limitless. Having a career that allows me to continue to work with the many artists I respect and love means so much to me. With the growth of the company and the opportunities we have as an organization, there is no better time to be in the role I am in now as a partner. I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of it all.”

And saving the best news for last…

 Matthew and his wife, Katey, are proud to introduce their first born, Brady. Born on January 5, 2017, which is also his mother's birthday, at 6:45 pm, at just under 7 lbs and over 20 inches. 

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