Cover story: Realtors deeply involved in communities

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The holidays are a time when generous spirits prevail, and families, individuals and businesses often donate their resources to help others, whether by collecting toys for needy children, feeding hungry people or gathering clothing for wounded service members and their families.

Many Realtors in the Washington area participate in this holiday kindness individually and with their offices and local associations, and many give their time and money in abundance all year to help their communities.

While many Realtors are naturally drawn to issues related to housing problems and many have participated over the years in Habitat for Humanity projects, local Realtors are involved with a broad spectrum of causes and needs, as is evidenced in the following list.

For the past two years, NVAR has sponsored the Drumstix Dash fundraiser for HCSNV at Burke Lake Park in Fairfax Station, raising money for a housing fund to assist distressed Fairfax County residents so they can receive counseling and support services.

As an organization, NVAR supports Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, and at the annual NVAR convention it collects money and groceries to be donated to United Community Ministries service organization.

  • The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) has a GCAAR Cares committee of members who are dedicated to fundraising and volunteering for a variety of groups in Montgomery County and the District. GCAAR Cares recently donated more than $10,000 to Habitat for Humanity International for building homes in Haiti.

More than 50 GCAAR Realtors participated in Rebuilding Together in 2010 to refurbish two homes in Montgomery County and the District.

Other groups supported by GCAAR include the Affordable Housing Conference and Habitat for Humanity in Montgomery County; Bright Beginnings, the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place, and Manna in the District; the Dwelling Place in Gaithersburg, Md.; the Montgomery Housing Partnership in Silver Spring, Md.; and Places for People in Rockville, Md.

  • The Prince George’s County Association of Realtors (PGCAR) recently partnered with the county’s Public Safety Assistance Program to raise money to help feed more than 6,000 families in Prince George’s. Realtors not only raised money, which provided boxes of food for families, but also helped organize and pack the food.

PGCAR Realtors volunteered for the Christmas in April project earlier this year, refurbishing a home for a needy Prince George’s County family.

In December, PGCAR held a blood drive in conjunction with the American Red Cross at the association’s headquarters.

The PGCAR Community Service Committee also presented five Prince George’s County high school seniors with $12,500 in scholarships earlier in 2010.

  • One of the most popular charities around the Christmas holiday season is Toys for Tots, and many Realtors’ offices offer their space as designated drop-off points for donated toys. At the Avery-Hess Realtors office in Tysons Corner, the staff has local church and school groups decorate donation boxes for the office. In addition, staff members are organizing pickups of toy donations from other offices to bring them to the Tysons Corner office so more of their branch offices can participate in the toy drive.

The Tysons Corner Avery-Hess also works with St. Jude’s Ranch for Children’s Recycled Card Program, collecting used holiday, birthday and greeting cards for the organization, which helps abused children. The children at St. Jude’s take the front of the cards and recycle them by attaching a new back and then putting a sticker on the back about the environmentally friendly reuse of the cards.

Other Avery-Hess offices participated in Casual Friday for Haiti, collecting donations for the privilege of wearing jeans on Friday. Donations were sent to the Red Cross to help the Haitians. In Fredericksburg, Avery-Hess Realtors worked with the Fredericksburg Association of Realtors to collect cereal for the Fredericksburg food bank.

  • Weichert, Realtors recently held the 32nd Annual Weichert Toy Drive, a nationwide endeavor in which members of each community are invited to drop off new toys at Weichert sales offices. The toys are delivered throughout the holidays in conjunction with local charities that help financially and physically disadvantaged children. 

In 2009, almost 24,000 toys were distributed to charitable and service organizations through this drive.

As with other real estate companies, individual Weichert agents participate in a wide range of community service projects every year. Weichert, Realtors recognizes individual agents throughout the country for their outstanding contributions to their customers and colleagues and for their community efforts through its “You Make the Weichert Difference” campaign. 

In August 2010, Cindy Dwyer, a Realtor in Weichert’s Vienna, Va. Office was recognized for her work with injured soldiers and their families. She collects clothing for service members and their families, makes sure they are clean and in perfect condition, and delivers them to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Ms. Dwyer works on a personal level with the soldiers and their families, too, inviting them to her home during the holidays and at other times of the year to give them a respite from the stress of the medical center.

  • Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Cares (CBRB Cares) supports a wide range of local charities in the Washington area. Individual agents and offices in the region hold fundraisers throughout the year and also recommend potential recipients of the funds. The company also hosts an annual golf tournament as a regional fundraiser for CBRB Cares.

During the first three quarters of 2010, about 30 groups in the Washington and greater Baltimore region received funds from CBRB Cares.

Additional companywide activities throughout the year include participating in Toys for Tots and clothing drives in many Coldwell Banker offices. The Vienna office usually collects between 5,000 and 8,000 toys each year, filling trailers with toys donated by local businesses, individuals and students from nearby Louise Archer Elementary School. Agents from the Vienna office mentor students at that school.

In March, the entire company participates in the Harvest for the Hungry drive that benefits the Capital Area Food Bank.

In November, five Coldwell Banker offices participated in the American Heart Association Heart Walk, raising $7,640 for the association.

The Vienna office of Coldwell Banker organizes an annual fundraiser, which this year raised $7,842 to benefit Family Pass and Alternative House in addition to their ongoing contributions to CBRB Cares. This office also organized a donation drive to raise money for MenzFit, which provides new suits, job interview coaching, career development and financial literacy services for disadvantaged men in the Washington area.

The Lake Ridge Coldwell Banker office hosts a thank you luncheon every year to show its appreciation for the emergency service personnel in Manassas and Prince William County.

Each month, the Dupont Circle Coldwell Banker office hosts a pet adoption event for the Washington Humane Society. In addition, members of this office volunteer with Food & Friends to help prepare meals to be delivered to area residents suffering from life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.

At the Bethesda Coldwell Banker office, Realtor Harlene Bernstein raises money for the Perry School Community Services Center. This year, Ms. Bernstein arranged for a $3,000 donation from CBRB Cares to the school’s Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters program.

Linda Wolf, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Alexandria, Va., has organized a holiday ice cream social each year since December 2001 at Pop’s Ice Cream Parlor in Alexandria. Ms. Wolf asks her guests to bring toys, hats, gloves and other gifts for patients at Children’s National Medical Center. The items are kept in a special closet at the hospital and used by children undergoing treatment. 

Ms. Wolf also collects monetary donations to support the hospital. In 2009, the ice cream party raised $800 along with two vans full of toys and gifts for the children. In addition, CBRB Cares recently donated $3,000 to Children’s National Medical Center.

  • Lindsay Reishman Real Estate plans community activities in the District all year long, such as an Easter egg hunt and free outdoor movies in the summer. For the past three years, Mr. Reishman has organized a free soccer clinic for children.
  • Brandon Green, president of Brandon Green Cos., a team under Keller Williams Capital Properties in the District, has partnered with Up with People to organize community-service projects that help students throughout the District. Mr. Green and Up with People, along with Keller Williams Capital Properties staff members and their families, participated in local service projects with Serve DC in October.
  • Skip and Debbie Singleton, owners of DC Living Real Estate in the District, started the DC Design House project in 2008 to benefit the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC), which provides more than $50 million every year in uncompensated medical care to area children. Mr. and Mrs. Singleton raised $100,000 in 2008, $100,000 in 2009 and more than $200,000 in 2010 through their Design House event. In each case, the Realtors renovated a home and gave local interior designers a chance to showcase their talents. The Singletons plan to continue their Design House project and support of CNMC annually.

The next DC Design House will be at the home of the late Janice W. Goldsten, a philanthropist who hosted many events at 3134 Ellicott St. NW. The Design House will be open to the public April 9 through May 8, after it has been decorated by local designers.

  • Fall Properties in Falls Church partnered with Bethany House of Northern Virginia and Joseph’s Coat to provide Thanksgiving dinners and also is providing Christmas dinners to 30 women and their children who have suffered from domestic violence. Fall Properties has reached out to its customers and community to gather grocery donations and grocery-store gift cards for Bethany House and, in return, has provided donors with a reusable grocery bag.

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