A letter to my friends, esteemed colleagues, PRSA Southeast Wisconsin members and supporters:

Samantha-AndrewsThree words sum up how I feel today: blessed, grateful and thankful.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for allowing me to serve as president of the PRSA Southeast Wisconsin chapter this year. It’s truly been a privilege and my honor.

PR Palooza a success; thank you!

I can’t wait to see the photos from our PR Palooza fundraiser event last night at the Miller Caves; check back soon on our website: prsawis.org and Twitter @prsawis (follow us!). The presence of our photographer, Scott Patrick, was a wonderful addition to our event. Hopefully you had a chance to check out his photo booth and take home some fun photos. Here is a photo of me, Sara Rude and Annie Gentil I hope will make you smile.
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The holiday spirit is truly among us. Sara Rude, who served as chair for our fundraiser last night, dropped off all the leftover food from the event to The Guest House of Milwaukee, a homeless shelter for men who are looking to rehabilitate back into society and get jobs with vocational skills. She said she “just couldn’t think of another better place to put all that food.” What a nice gift Sara … thank you. Thank you to Jackie Hribar of BVK for helping to take back our linens and candles (and for a ride back to my car!).

Our 50/50 cash raffle winner Tom Gubbins of Marketwired in Chicago, who Don Klein reached out to and gained sponsorship support from this year, even donated back his $70 in cash winnings back to our chapter. Thank you ,Tom! We were able to raise $6,500 this year in sponsorship funds.

Two years ago, our past president, my friend and colleague, Mike Pflughoeft, APR, founded PR Palooza, an event that brought our economically challenged chapter “back in black.” His vision was to have an annual networking event that also helped to raise funds for the chapter. Thank you to all of our sponsors for their generosity: presenting sponsors–Big Shoes Network; Mueller Communications, Inc.; Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, Laughlin Constable and Nelson Schmidt. Supporting sponsors–Marketwired; Group 1 Marketing and Boelter and Lincoln. In-kind sponsors are Scott Patrick Photography, STIR, Business Journal and Staples Marketing.

I also would like to thank our PR Palooza chairs and volunteers: Sara Rude at Nelson Schmidt, Sarah Kikkert at Wisconsin State Fair, Meg Hemmelgarn at STIR and those who helped with planning efforts: Chantel Kuczmarski of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino and Mike Pflughoeft, APR. I’d also like to recognize our 2014 board of directors who also helped with this event and have shared their time and dedication this past year to PRSA: Bill Bussler; Don Klein; Phill Trewyn; Annie Gentil; Tim Olsen, APR; Karren Jeske, APR; Heidi Fendos; Sara Rude; Carol Weber, APR; Ann Knabe, PhD, APR+M and Kelly Savage, APR.

2014 PRSA Southeast Wisconsin Chapter successes

I’d like to briefly share successes our chapter has had this past year. We are holding steady financially with nearly $30,000 of chapter net worth. Thanks to Annie Gentil, our treasurer, for keeping us on track.

We are the largest PRSA chapter in Wisconsin with 323 members, including 37 associate members, which is up about 10 percent from last year. Local dues are only $75 a year for members, $25 for associate members, and new this year, we introduced a new membership rate for retirees of $25. Thank you to Tim Olsen, APR, our membership chair.

We have a continued partnership with the Eisner Foundation (thank you, Bill Eisner!) and our Pro Day in April. In 2015, Kelly Savage, APR, our accreditation chair has introduced a new Path to APR event, with the goal to encourage at least three to five members to successfully travel the “Path to APR” in 2015. This is under way now and begins in January, so please contact Kelly Savage, APR at kelly.savage.lvv0@statefarm.com today to sign up. Details can be found on our website.

Welcome new 2015 board members

Bill Bussler, our new president, and our new members to our 2015 board of directors (W. Patrick McSweeney, APR and Meg Hemmelgarn) will surely lead our chapter to more successes in the coming year. It is my pleasure to be among so many talented and fun individuals.

Personal story

In closing I’d like to share a personal story with you that has had a big impact on me and so many others this week. It is a story about the power of life, the spirit of giving, PR and social media.

I lost a high school friend and classmate this week whose family members were good friends of my family. I’m from a small town called Rosendale, which is about 10 miles from Fond du Lac. You may know of this town as many tell me they received speeding tickets driving through Rosendale!

My friend, Jason Czoschke, was only 41 years old. He passed away Sunday in a hunting accident, falling 15 feet from a deer stand in front of one of my other high school friends. Jason gave people so many laughs growing up; he was our class clown. He would often have these hilarious outbursts during homeroom and blurt out inappropriate words that even made our teachers laugh. I will also never forget the day Jason and I got into a spaghetti fight in our lunchroom. I was so mad at him for throwing spaghetti sauce all over my outfit!

While I have not seen Jason and many of my other friends from high school since our reunion a few years ago, I stay connected with them on Facebook, as I’m sure you do with your friends and family. His wife has been keeping all of us up-to-date on latest details about Jason. She shared yesterday how Jason chose to donate most of his organs to help others who are struggling to live. She said Jason will be helping eight people with these gifts of life, including a man in Chicago who will be receiving Jason’s heart. The man had only had a couple of days to live. What an impact Jason’s life has made on so many people! His wife and two daughters are more gifts he leaves behind. His jokes and laughter will be passed on to others for years to come. While it is tragic that he died so young, I’m happy he was at least doing something he loved–being outdoors and hunting. Losing friends and family members makes you realize how short life is and made me realize I should be kinder and more giving to others, so that’s my new goal, starting today!

I hope the holidays are safe and happy for all of you and your families. Let’s all enjoy this beautiful gift of life. Thank you again!


Samantha Andrews, MBA, APR, immediate past president, PRSA Southeast Wisconsin