Third time’s a charm: Realtors® Care Day: March/April 2011

Annual Realtors® Care Day event takes involvement to new level
By: Susan Shackelford


Partners make it possible
New Homeowner Relationship chair


Let’s face it — few Realtors® turn down a party.

But that’s what happened when the Housing Opportunity Foundation surveyed participants after Realtors® Care Day in 2010. “It really surprised us,” says Terri Marshall, executive director of the foundation, the charitable arm of the Charlotte Regional Realtor® Association.

“They told us they didn’t want to spend money on a celebration party — that using that money for materials to help a family was more important,” Marshall explains.

Joan Goode, chair of the 2011 foundation committee, was also surprised. “But after you think about it,” she notes, “it says a lot that they want the resources to go their neighbors rather than for a pat on the back.”

John Paul Soto, who is co-chairing the 2011 event with Nobie Thrasher, agrees. “Personally, I’m a people person, and I loved the celebration party. But at the same time, I do agree. After working all day, many people are drained. Only about half of those who said they were going to come showed up. It was a long way to drive for some, and a big expense to put on.”

So for the first time in the three years of Realtors® Care Day — when more than 650 Realtors® turn out April 8 to fix up exteriors for deserving homeowners in the region — agents will simply work all day, and perhaps join another team nearby for an informal get-together at the end. “We are leaving that up to our site captains and their respective teams as to how they wish to celebrate,” Marshall says.

Event is back in full force

More than ever, the focus of the event will be on the approximately 30 homeowners the association aids that day. Working closely with housing organizations in the community to identify candidates through an extensive application process, leaders of Realtors® Care Day select homeowners in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties who are unable to keep their homes safe and livable. Most are elderly, disabled and low-income.

Realtors® do everything from repairing leaky roofs and fixing deteriorated decks to painting and cleaning up yards. “You’re making a positive change in somebody’s life,” says Amanda Jones, who is homeowner relationship chair for Realtors® Care Day. “We hear it from the positive responses from homeowners; it does change their lives. It’s really a blessing.”

Todd Long, project manager and prep-work chair for the event, says: “We are able to touch so many people who are in need. That, to me, is fantastic.”

Realtors® Care Day also has a much larger impact. The housing organizations that the foundation partners with testify to that.

“It has brought awareness to the need for good, affordable housing; it has supported organizations who do the work on a daily basis; and it has impacted about 30 families a year — I think they’ve done a great job,” says Tim O’Neil, director of the critical home repair program for Charlotte’s Habitat for Humanity organization.

Says Scott Loudermelt, executive director of Habitat in Iredell, “It was apparent from the beginning that the regional Realtors® had their act together and knew what they were doing, and that their heart was in the right place.”

The enthusiasm of the volunteers stands out. “They want to be there — it’s not a task; it’s service,” Loudermelt says.

Positive exposure, relationships

One of the ways Realtors® Care Day has raised awareness is through media coverage and involving elected officials. Not only do local governments issue fair housing proclamations in connection with the event, but elected officials are also encouraged to visit work sites. “Last year, officials visited 19 sites and issued eight proclamations,” says executive director Marshall. “I don’t know how we’re going to top that.”

The event also helps build relationships that benefit Realtors® in general. “They see us giving back to the community and other topics come up that they ask to talk to us about,” says Alison Royal-Combs who, as chair of the Government Affairs Committee, serves on the Realtors® Care Day Core Committee. She and others work closely with association Government Affairs Director Elizabeth Barnhardt to involve the politicians.

New leaders step in

This year’s core committee has new co-chairs; John Paul Soto and Nobie Thrasher follow the strong leadership of Joe Rempson and Daniel Cottingham Jr. from past years.

Soto and Thrasher have volunteered on Realtors® Care Day since its inception, and they became good friends last year through the association’s Leadership Development Program. They are excited about building on the success of the program, which has helped 64 homeowners and had a financial impact of more than $500,000 in its first two years.

“I believe it’s going to be one of our best years,” Thrasher says. “We have a lot of returning team players, as well as some new team members who bring lots of new energy. Instead of having to re-invent the process, we can take what we have learned and make things better.”

“It’s going awesome,” Soto says. “We’ve made several changes that will improve the outcome budget wise, time wise and preparation wise.”

Many eyes on the budget

To more closely match the budget with projects, the committee will select homeowners after visiting all the candidates. The committee will have a solid budget in place, which is based on sponsorships and in-kind support. Cathy Speizman, association staffer Renee Ortiz-Aaron and Marshall are responsible for raising the dollars necessary to implement the project.

Speizman is a newcomer to the core committee. “I’ve seen the first-hand impact on these homeowners — it’s enormous,” she says. “That’s why I wanted to take my involvement to a different level.”

To maximize dollars and resources, selecting clusters of homes in the same neighborhood will be a bigger part of this year’s effort. “We are working with our housing partners to identify high-priority segments of the community that need critical help,” says Marshall. “It also allows us to make a bigger impact on a neighborhood.” She notes that when Realtors® Care Day repaired four homes on the same street in Troutman in 2010, “it contributed to an overall revitalization effort for the entire town.”

Also, this year, Lowe’s has stepped up its involvement. The company is providing a dedicated team to supervise delivery logistics and have materials at all the sites before volunteers arrive, and to provide additional materials if they run out. “This is a huge help to us,” Marshall says.

Sign-ups available until March 21

The biggest help of all, of course, will be the labor of love that Realtors® give homeowners in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties on Friday, April 8. Sign-ups and more details are atwww.RealtorsCareDay.com.

Party or — in this case — no party, the event the event is expected once again to have a profound effect.

“It goes from south Mecklenburg to Iredell County, and you’re talking about a major impact in one day,” says Scott Stewart, district commercial accounts specialist for Lowe’s, who assisted on the project last year and is leading Lowe’s involvement in 2011.

“The thing that impresses me most,” he adds, “is that you have Realtors® out there, and we all know it’s a down market. But they put that aside and impact the community.

Lowe’s steps up involvement with Realtors® Care Day in 2011

This year, Lowe’s is bringing a district focus to its assistance.

“It’s more than one store can handle,” says Scott Stewart, district commercial accounts specialist for the company. “I am working with the 10 stories in my district to make sure the Realtors® get product to the job sites on time and that they get what they order.

“We also put in place an emergency program so if they are short on product we can get it to them,” Stewart adds.

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