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Laying It All on the Table
By: Katie Salter

Have you ever been the event planner for your congregation?

You look around and see volunteers darting in and out of rooms during the pre-party chaos. It is 10 minutes before your members will start arriving. As usual, you glance at your watch and start going through your mental checklist. Vacuum the floor: check, decorations: check, tables and chairs: check, microphone test: double check! Suddenly, the doors swing open, and members start to arrive. Just as you straighten the last centerpiece, you take a deep breath, look up, and you're in the middle of the annual church social.

Though it all seems to come together right in that moment, you know that the details really come together while planning for your church event. Here are some questions to ask when looking to add folding tables and chairs to your next event or when purchasing for the future.

Will I need to use them both indoor and outdoor?
It's important to know if your tables and chairs will be used inside, outside, or both. With the right set of folding tables and chairs, you can transform your lobby into a banquet hall, your grounds into a BBQ, and your empty rooms into temporary classrooms. Tables with exposed metal parts are prone to rusting, and wood tables, or wood tables with laminate, often warp when exposed to moisture. It's important to take care of tables with these features and not leave them outside. Tables with powder-coated metal will resist rusting and weathering, since there is a layer of protection melted to the surface of the metal. When it comes to a table surface, High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is one of the best plastics available for outdoor use, as it will never crack, chip, or peel, and most blends are resistant to both UV damage and staining. 

Who will be setting up and taking them down? 
Folding tables are ideal for quick set-up and take-down, so they will likely move around your facility often. It's important that your tables are durable, safe, and easy to move—so that both your tables and volunteers survive your events. When you think about it, folding tables are repeatedly dropped or bumped into walls, and can sometimes even collapse accidentally if set up incorrectly. Good tables are built to withstand impact when dropped or bumped, and they should have extra safety features that lock the leg braces securely. Features such as impact-resistant corners or a heavy-duty table top material will prevent damage from impact. The weight of a table is also a good thing to consider. If your volunteers tend to be a mix of ages, lighter-weight tables will save time, energy, and probably somebody's back! 

What features should I look for?
First, with size, storage and transportation are both important elements to consider. Knowing the size of your tables is also crucial to determining how many will fit in your facility and what types of layouts you can arrange.

The leg style of a table is actually considered quite often in a purchasing decision. Will the table leg get in the way of people sitting at the table? Will the table wobble because the legs are poorly placed?

The warranty is also a very important factor when purchasing for your organization, as your tables will definitely see more wear and tear than with residential use. Table users often say they use warranty as a measure of the strength and quality of the product. 

Finally, matching chairs will add to the overall aesthetics. When looking for chairs, be sure to look for how well they will match your current tables, their relative comfort, and, of course, durability.
How much are you willing to spend?
The biggest question is always the one that affects your wallet. When buying tables and chairs, it's easy to become excited over a low price point, only to add up the numbers and find yourself praying for mercy! Here are a few tips to save those dollars.

Buy in bulk. Buying from a company with program customized to sell to non-profit organizations is always a good idea. Most are able to negotiate the price with you based on volume and your specific needs. 

Buy quality. How long do you picture yourself using these tables and chairs? Now multiply that by two, or even three. Most organizations invest in their needs at the time, which can be costly when required to replace tables and chairs down the road because they simply wear out. 

Invest in good customer service. When possible, it is wise to work with a sales rep. They can be a great single point of contact for product, shipping, and warranty information. If you're looking for a "heavenly" deal, you may want to ask if they are trying to clear out any of their products from inventory, which is a great way to get quality products at minimal cost. With great customer service, you also benefit from the long-term cost savings of replacing parts due to damage or defects.

Katie Salter is the communications manager for Lifetime Products, Inc., a leading manufacturer of folding tables and chairs, www.lifetime.com.

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