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After Sept. 11, like most companies in the travel business, Philadelphia-based Rosenbluth International was hard hit, having to cut salaries across the board, lay off 300 employees and furlough another 700 in the hope of hiring them back when business improved. The $3.5 billion corporate travel management business also realized that some of its employees were suffering financially, some as a result of the economic slump that began earlier in 2001. “It was our general sense that we had associates in our ranks who were literally struggling to live; they lacked the four necessities — food, shelter, clothing and medicine,” said General Counsel Thomas Knoblauch. He said Vice President Michael Boult came up with the idea for Rosenbluth to begin a charitable fund to provide financial assistance to employees in need of short-term financial help. Knoblauch and Cecily Carel, vice president for human resources, were given the task of researching the issue and figuring out how to establish the fund. OPERATION SAFE Knoblauch said that they contacted Continental Airlines Inc., which had already established a charitable fund. This became Rosenbluth’s model. David M. Kuchinos, a partner at Philadelphia’s Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley, provided outside support. An informal charitable fund provided support for employees for six months or so until Rosenbluth’s Operation SAFE was officially established under 501 (c)(3) of the tax code in June. SAFE, which stands for Supporting Associates Facing Emergencies, has raised more than $20,000 so far from employees and some business partners. A junior travel agent was on the verge of losing his house to a bank foreclosure before SAFE provided several thousand dollars for his mortgage payments, said Carel, who is chairwoman of the nine-member employee board that oversees the fund. She explained that this employee, who supported three children and a wife who was unable to work because of health problems, had fallen into arrears because Rosenbluth had furloughed him for four to five months after Sept. 11. “This program was set up to help employees in a crisis situation and keeping a roof over one’s head is a classic example that would qualify someone,” Carel said. A second recipient was an employee who needed help with her rent after a series of personal and health problems also left her in arrears. She had gone through a divorce, battled cancer and then suffered a disabling auto accident and could not afford to pay her rent. “She was in transition and needed some help and we saw her through,” Carel said, explaining that she was given approximately $1,500. In all cases, Carel said, Rosenbluth must verify the plight of the employees seeking assistance. After getting approval from both employees in the first two cases, Carel said, she and Knoblauch verified their problems. The perception is that more companies have set up such charitable funds in the past year, although there are no exact numbers, said Eric Smith, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, which regulates such funds under the tax laws. Both Carel ( [email protected]) and Knoblauch ( [email protected]) said they would be happy to advise companies on how to set up a fund.

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