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Ace Printing: 40 Years of Helping Nonprofits Put Their Best Face Forward

By Catherine Rips

The theory says most of humanity is separated by six degrees. In the desert, it’s closer to two. And if you’re trying to connect nonprofits, the most common link is probably Ace Printing.

Currently celebrating 40 years of service to the local community, over those decades Ace has completed tens of thousands of printing, mailing and signage projects that helped countless nonprofits raise millions of dollars, communicate their services, and recognize donors and volunteers. Despite the prediction that print would become obsolete — newsletters, appeals, invitation packages, annual reports, event programs and personalized, targeted mailings are still the lifeblood of local fundraising.

Founded in 1978 by Greg Lawrence, who was joined in 1982 by his brother Mark, Ace hasn’t just seen the valley’s nonprofit history; it’s helped shape it. I recently sat down with Mark to reminisce. He offered some of his favorite memories.

 A Memorable Meal

Not many of us remember what we had for dinner on February 28, 1983, but Mark recalls the occasion clearly. “A woman came into the shop saying she needed some menus. I thought, ‘Great! We’ll get an order for 20,000.’ We were quite disappointed she only wanted 15. Later we learned they were for the Queen of England who was visiting the Annenberg Estate.” The menu is still on display at Sunnylands along with other memorabilia from her visit. The estate had not yet become a nonprofit, he explains, but Ace has done work for the Annenberg Trust at Sunnylands since their first business card order.

 A Wing and a Prayer

About 30 years ago, Mark says, “I befriended Pete Madison, a retired WWII fighter pilot who was also a retired printer.” Every so often, Mark took him to Los Angeles to lunch with his buddies from the war. “Pete was collecting WWII memorabilia and stories with the idea of opening an air museum in Palm Springs.” He and two other veterans, Charlie Mayer and Dr. Mort Gubin, pursued the dream. “I doubt he could have imagined,” Mark says with a smile, “that the Palm Springs Air Museum would have 100,000+ visitors a year! The museum is one of our best customers to this day.”

 The Community Cared

In 1984, in the face of the AIDS epidemic, a group of community volunteers founded Desert Aids Project (D.A.P.) Initially the office was down the street from Ace Printing. “In the beginning, D.A.P. was run on a tiny budget by a handful of volunteers. We often helped with projects at no cost,” Mark recalls. Today, D.A.P. has grown into a Federally Qualified Health Center servicing more than 4,000 clients with a staff of 200 and 400+ volunteers. “And 34 years later, we’re still printing and mailing for them.”

One Kit Fox

In 1970, trustees of the Palm Springs Desert Museum established a 360-acre nature preserve the pride of which was one kit fox. Today, The Living Desert is a 1,200-acre major destination with annual attendance of 459,000. “Since the late 1980s,” Mark recollects, “we’ve provided printing, camera and film stripping for their foxpaws newsletter. We still provide them with printing, mailing and signage service. We couldn’t have been more thrilled when they won USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Award.”

A Helpful Referral

Also in the early 1970s, the fledgling Eisenhower Medical Center was preparing to open an in-house print shop. The graphic arts teacher at Palm Springs High was called for a student referral. Mark was offered the job. Though he turned it down, it turned out to be the best job he never took. “Forty-five years later, EMC is still one of our major clients. We deliver jobs to the campus almost daily.”

 The World Comes to Town

Despite the desert’s growth, it’s still somewhat small and off the beaten path. So it’s all the more astonishing that for 26 years, distinguished world leaders, media pundits, heroes and literary giants have dropped by to chat. “Since Desert Town Hall debuted in 1993,” Mark says, “it’s been thrilling to print programs, tickets, posters and stage banners for speakers like Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and so many others.”

Fore the Love of Desert Charities

Desert Classic Charities is another of Ace’s 30-year nonprofit customers. From the Bob Hope Classic days to the Humana Challenge and now the CareerBuilder Challenge, Mark notes, Ace has been involved producing the commemorative program, daily pairings and marketing collateral. “We’ve spent many long nights during the tournament waiting for the daily results to come in, to be printed and bound for delivery to all the golf courses by 6 a.m. the next day. So many nonprofits have benefited over the years! We are grateful to have played our part.”

That statement summarizes the brothers’ view of work they’ve done for the past 40 years. “If our legacy turns out to be helping nonprofits’ become more successful,” Mark says, “it will have been an incredible run.”

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