The SEARCH Foundation, a Scottsdale, Ariz.–based organization dedicated to offering financial assistance to event professionals facing catastrophic circumstances, is expanding its mission. Using funds from the now-defunct International Special Events Education Foundation, the nonprofit SEARCH Foundation will begin providing educational grants and scholarships to the industry.

Michael Cerbelli, president of Special Events at Total Entertainment, Carlstadt, N.J., and chairman of SEARCH, made the announcement this morning at The Special Event show in New Orleans.

In an interview with MeetingsNet, Cerbelli said it was the International Special Events Society that initiated the deal. “About three years ago, ISES came to SEARCH about its foundation, the International Special Events Education Foundation, which provided educational grants and scholarships. It turned to us and said, ‘You’ve made a complete 180 [as an organization]; we want you to make a complete 180 with ISEEF. We want you to take over the ISEEF arm.’”

It was long process for ISEEF to liquidate and be able to give its funds to another organization, explained Cerbelli, who said ISEEF was finally “put to rest” January 6, when it wired the funds to SEARCH. “We now officially have an education arm,” said Cerbelli. “We’re extremely, extremely proud.”

While ISEEF was set up to benefit only ISES members, SEARCH’s educational grants will be available to all event professionals. Nevertheless, ISES members were singled out for SEARCH’s first educational funding. “Since we knew this change was coming,” Cerbelli said, “we sent an invitation to the 50 ISES chapters—since the money did come from ISES and we wanted to honor them—to nominate someone who had never been to The Special Event show or who needed help to get there. We got back 24 responses and gave away 24 grants to people to attend the education side of the January 2010 Special Event show.”

Event professionals will be able to apply for educational grants at the SEARCH Web site,