This article appeared in the Feb. 23, 2007 Jewish Advocate.
Local philanthropist lives and gives by example
By Susie Davidson
Ten years ago, when Larry Green turned 50, Pan-Mass Challenge Executive Director Billy Starr took out a quarter-page ad that featured a group of teenagers. The text stated: “We're only 15 years old, but when we grow up, we want to be like Larry Green."
Green, a local businessman and philanthropist, was recently honored by his peers in the special events industry as “Samaritan of the Year.” According to the Boston firm Harron & Associates, the award was presented to Green this past August at the Event Solutions Spotlight Awards ceremony “The Event Solutions Idea Factory 2006” in Denver. Harron’s materials state that “the prestigious distinction, one of the highest honors in the special events industry, honors an event professional who demonstrates exceptional generosity in the donation of time, talent and resources to help those in need.” Editors of Special Events Magazine nominate the finalists; winners are selected through online voting.
Green, a Sharon resident who is President of Rentals Unlimited (one of eight finalists in Event Solutions’ “Rentals Company of the Year” category) and International Event Products, explained that “special events” encompasses the catering, event planning, entertainment, business and celebrations arena. But Green has clearly gone above and beyond the mere logistical aspects of the field, establishing an extraordinary reputation within each of the community organizations he has allied with.
“You gotta know Larry,” says Michael Cerbelli, Chairman of the SEARCH (Special Events Assistance & Resources with a Caring Heart) Foundation, which was founded in 1997 to aid those in need within the industry. “He's an open and friendly person who makes you feel important.” Cerbelli, who is also Operations and Creative Director for the New York/New Jersey-based company Total Entertainment, produced Billy Joel’s recent nuptials, the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and The King of Morocco’s recent Birthday Bash. But when asked to become the face of SEARCH three years ago, he agreed, but only if Larry was to be part of the team. “We've since built a solid Foundation, and we've done that because Larry was on board,” he said.
In addition to serving as Treasurer and member of the SEARCH Foundation, Green has also served as Gala Chair for the Brain Tumor Society and as an advisor to the Rodman Ride for children with cancer. Green also redesigned the food service operation, and oversees event management throughout the year for the Pan Mass Challenge. He has served as President of Temple Sinai in Sharon, and as President of Jewish Big Brother and Big Sister. He served as Chairman of the Board for the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston until 2004, and two weeks ago, became part of the South Area JCC Task Force, a new joint CJP/JCC committee. “We’re going to look at the delivery of services in the South Area,” he said, adding, “I've been involved in everything under the sun.”
"Larry Green has always been one of the most generous individuals in the event industry," said John Baragona, president of Event Solutions. "He always donates so much time, energy and money for the benefit of others. I've seen him buy auction items at benefits and immediately donate the item back to the charity so they can auction the item again.
“He's the guy who reaches for the bill on the table - the one who secretly tells the waitress he’s paying,” said Cerbelli, himself the recipient of Event Solutions’ 2005 Spotlight Award for Entertainer of the Year. “But first and foremost,” he noted, “he's a friend.” Cerbelli also serves on the board of Metro New York ISES, the International Special Events Society, whose New England chapter not only recently recognized Green as a charitable and admirable member with its annual Heart and Soul Award, but renamed it “The Lawrence Green Heart and Soul Award.”
“I’ve always believed that when you give, you get back so much more,” Green said in a statement. “I am passionate about my industry and want the best for everyone I work with. It feels great to be recognized, and I could not be more proud.”
Born and raised in Sharon (“I never left,” he said), Green ran a Kosher catering business he began with his brother for 32 years. In the late 1980s, he saw a niche for equipment and supplies rentals. He started Rentals Unlimited, an event rental company, and its sister company International Event Products, an importer of china, bowls, platters, glassware, chairs and other items. Both companies are based in Stoughton. “These were a natural for me,” said Green. “I’ve been in the field so long that I understood the extended needs of the catering and event planning industry.”
For the Pan-Mass Challenge, Green, who was the youngest trustee of his alma mater, Bentley College, coordinates the donations of food, trucks, medical supplies and more. “He's a good worker, a great volunteer, and for 16 years, has been a great asset to the PMC,” said PMC Founder and Executive Director Billy Starr, who first met Green at a downtown benefit in 1989. “A big part of our development is the procurement, distribution and presentation of our food program. Starr noted that Green closes his own office for two weeks in the summer to work six days a week with the PMC prior to the ride, which last year, raised $23 million for The Jimmy Fund/Dana Farber Cancer Center.
“Pan-Mass is very close to my heart,” said Green, who, in 2005, lost his wife Linda to leukemia at the age of 56. He has four children and five grandchildren. “I make the time to see them,” he said. “I attend their sporting events, recitals and all family get-togethers. It's the most important thing to me.”
As Chair of its annual Gala, Green helped raised over $300,000 for the Brain Tumor Society. “Larry is an efficient operator and always executes well,” said Executive Director Neal P. Levitan. “His involvement in the community is another element of his high quality of service,” he added.
The SEARCH Foundation helps event professionals who suffer catastrophic events, explained Cerbelli, who met Green in 2001. “In August of 2006, Joanne Roth, a fundraiser in Denver, whipped out her AmEx card and said she would make a $1500 donation in the name of Larry Green's wife Linda.” $10,000 was immediately raised, and Green matched it. “At the same event,” said Cerbelli, “we were auctioning off a diamond ring. But when the donator backed out, Larry made one phone call to jeweler Susan Rothman, who offered up a one carat Hearts on Fire diamond. “Because of that, SEARCH was able to raise over $40,000 just on the diamond itself,” recalled Cerbelli. “And the woman who won the diamond in the raffle turned it back over to SEARCH, and we were able to raise an additional $3,000.” The group gave $50,000 to the New Orleans Foundation for Events Assistance and Resources, for people directly affected by Hurricane Katrina, he said.
“It's people like Larry who inspire others to be generous as well," said Baragona.
“I am really humbled by this award,” Green said when he accepted the trophy. “I’ve always believed that it is important to give back to one’s community, so it’s been a part of our corporate culture as well as my family life.“ He voiced his belief that the more successful a person is, the more they are obligated to share the wealth with those around them, particularly people who are less fortunate.
“I couldn’t be happier to receive this recognition, but it is secondary to the giving itself,” he said.