Where others see devastation and storm clouds, Mark Rugen sees a glass half full and a silver lining. Weather officials said more than 175 confirmed tornadoes hit the South and the Midwest April 27-28, and the total, once all is examined, could surpass 300. The twisters caused at least 327 deaths, at least 249 of which were in Alabama, officials said.
One individual whose business was completely wiped away by the tornados in Tuscaloosa is Mark Rugen. Rugen is a many-year veteran of the sign industry, and acknowledged “guru” of sign design as the nation’s only Certified Sign Instructor for Flexi Sign Pro, the leading application for signmakers in the digital sector. His sign shop was destroyed.
But Mark is smiling. He maintains a "glass half full" attitude even as he reveals that his livelihood's computers, software, job files, client files, and many printers, laminators and tools are gone, forever. He attributes the demands of his job for saving his life.
He snapped a cell phone picture of his former shop, upon his return to Tuscaloosa, after escaping the town for a business trip. "I attended the industry’s big tradeshow, the ISA Expo, in Las Vegas, and the convention for the Sign Biz Network.
"If I had been in my shop, as usual, I would probably not be here now. I was a thousand miles away, and connecting with my friends at the show and in the Sign Biz network. That is what kept me going."
During the annual Sign Biz convention this year, Momentum 2011, as the second day of the education program got underway, Rugen donated the shirt off his back, literally, to the Red Cross efforts for Tuscaloosa. He provided a one-of-a-kind printed shirt that was the last item he ever made in his shop before it was destroyed, to raise funds for tornado victims.
AUCTION BUILDS MOMENTUM
In a spontaneous and energetic auction, his shirt commanded $220 from the winning bidder, Bob Patrician, a Sign Biz Member and owner of Quality Sign & Banner in Newark, CA. See YouTube video, "The Shirt Off His Back" here: http://www.youtube.com/signbiznetwork
And the Sign Biz Network responded with an even bigger commitment to keep Rugen going. “Our network of sign companies stepped up, in a big way. Every job that Mark needs completed, he will sub out to one of our Members. We put out a call to action to every one of our entrepreneurs, and they responded not only with full support to assist Mark, but also with countless expressions of deep support for someone that has always supported this organization,” explains Teresa M. Young, President and CEO of Sign Biz, Inc., whose home office team builds and supports these Sign Biz network entrepreneurial ventures.
"Rugen participates every year with the Sign Biz Network's convention, dubbed 'The Reunion,' as a special presenter for a three-hour workshop. He has become known for his tireless contributions to education and innovation, two pillars of Sign Biz, Inc.'s mission.
"Over the years, Rugen has become a friend to all, and his energy in our uninhibited contests during our annual gala has become legendary," adds Young.