PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Spend a few minutes with Tony Macaluso, president of Portside Properties in Palm Beach Gardens, and you’re ready to conquer the world. He’s that passionate about what he does and how he does it. It’s this positive energy that propelled Macaluso from part-time real estate investor to full-time business owner.
“After college I got into the resort restaurant business on the Jersey shore,” says Macaluso. “It was the 1970s and the work was seasonal, so after Labor Day I would pick up a handyman special (house), fix it up and resell it. My goal was to make enough money so that I could spend a couple months in Florida,” says Macaluso. That was his first entrance into real estate.
When he realized that the restaurant business lacked the income potential he wanted, Macaluso decided to move to Florida to pursue another career. “The only two areas of employment that appeared to be without a ceiling were real estate and car sales, and I didn’t see myself as a car salesman,” he says.
So, in 1976, Macaluso earned his real estate license and, “fell for the classic line, ‘We just happen to have a desk open,’” he laughs.
Macaluso says he was successful because he had a “very good mentor who took an active interest in my success. I didn’t know what I was doing but I sure was enthusiastic.”
Timing Isn’t Everything
In 1981, Macaluso decided to start his own brokerage. “Timing has never been my strong suit,” he says, who notes that when he opened his office, mortgage interest rates skyrocketed to 18 percent.
However, Macaluso was prepared to make it work for the long term.
“I realized a long time ago that it is a huge mistake to set goals too low and then reach them,” he says. “It’s not OK to do the minimum. Never be happy to accept average.”
But, he adds, it’s easy to set yourself apart in any business, as “there’s not much traffic on the extra mile.”
He also feels strongly about running an ethical business. “There are too many short cuts. We all saw that in the industry between 2002 and 2005.”
Not only does Macaluso run a successful business with his wife Nancy, but he also leads by example. He’s a certified instructor who has just about every real estate education designation out there.
“I tell people I’m a classic overachiever, but the truth is that it’s hard to have respect for someone who talks about a designation but doesn’t personally have it,” he says. “If you want to lead people to a better place, you have to lead by example. There’s no substitute for true experience.”
In addition to that, Macaluso says that he’s naturally curious and enthusiastic. That enthusiasm came in handy a few years back when a representative from the Florida Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB) asked Macaluso to help rescue the struggling chapter. Macaluso was president of the state chapter in 1998 and didn’t want to see it disappear due to lack of membership.
“They had 37 members when I came on board. Within the first four months, we were up to 187 members,” he says. “I called people, I spread enthusiasm for the chapter. Now, we have a great leadership team, and we’re on track to bring it back.”
His enthusiasm and passion for the industry also earned him the Realtor® of the Year award three times—twice for his local association, the Realtors® Association of the Palm Beaches (20 years apart) and for Florida Realtors® in 2004.
“I had no idea my peers felt so strongly about me. It was a breathtaking moment when I won the state Realtor of the Year award,” he says.
On the Road
As an educator, Macaluso travels frequently. However, the travel bug bit him early in life when his grandfather got him interested in stamp collecting.
“My granddad would send me packets of stamps, mainly European ones. I had a stamp album and would figure out where the stamps came from. I got an incredible education in geography,” he says. When he was older, he was able to visit many of those countries and pick up additional coins and stamps from around the world.
He’s also a believer in giving back to the community. He’s dedicated to the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, charitable trust. Macaluso serves the organization as its secretary and a trustee; he’s been a trustee for 15 years.
The foundation helps those in the community who “fall through the cracks of government services and need a boost to keep going,” he explains. “For example, a waitress who breaks her leg can’t go back to work but there are no support services for her, so she applies to us and we give her temporary assistance until she’s back on her feet.”
The truth is that Macaluso is the epitome of a renaissance man. He owned a scuba dive charter for three years in the late 70s and still dives when he gets the chance. He’s inspired by Nelson Mandela, who, he says, “Spent 27 years in jail and instead of being bitter, he stood up for his country asking everyone to get along so it could move forward.
He’s partial to the song “What a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong and even was a Mercury recording artist in the 1960s. “I was on Merv Griffin,” says Macaluso, who plays drums and base. “As a musician, you’re never not a musician, but I don’t perform anymore,” he says.
He may not perform musically anymore, but in the real estate industry, his performance hits all the right notes.
Tony Macaluso is as passionate about the real estate profession as he is about helping his community. As a certified instructor, he has taken numerous education courses to enhance his knowledge and expertise. Some of the many professional designations he has earned include Certified Residential Specialist (CRS); Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI); and Certified International Property Specialist Instructor. In 2004, Macaluso was honored by his colleagues and Florida Realtors as Realtor of the Year for the state association. He also has been recognized as the Florida Educator of the Year for the industry. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has named him its Educator of the Year and International Advocate Member of the Year.Read More »
LONGWOOD, Fla. – By reaching out to elementary schools, this local Realtor® and his wife found a way to mentor and feed homeless, displaced and poverty-stricken children.
Several years ago, Mark Santolin and his wife Rhonda went on a spiritual journey. “We attended some of our church’s programs and classes, and it set our hearts on fire,” says Mark, a sales associate with EXIT Real Estate Results in Longwood. He says the couple realized that in order to make their spiritual journey mean anything, they had to take action and do something to help others.
So, when the time came to participate in a community-feeding project, the Santolins jumped at the opportunity.
“Our bible study took on an Easter project to feed the homeless. Over 150 people came out of nowhere to get fed. They were in the woods,” says Mark, who’s been in real estate for 14 years. “That’s when Rhonda and I decided to bring tents, water and non-perishable food to the woods. There would be no judgment, no forms to fill out, just necessities and someone to listen,” he says. “Our goal at that time was to bring 10 people back into society by helping them get back on their feet. We ended up getting six of them out of the woods.”
However, the Santolins felt like they were hitting a wall in terms of helping the homeless in the woods; so they looked for other ways to make a difference. “We realized that if we truly wanted to help this situation, we had to reach out to the children,” says Mark. So, he and Rhonda went to a few elementary schools and asked what they needed to help homeless and displaced kids. “To our surprise, several principals were willing to work with us,” says Mark.
The Santolins soon found out how great the need really was. “We heard stories of kids gathering food that the other children don’t want or don’t eat and packing it up to bring home over the weekend,” Mark says. “If they didn’t do that, they wouldn’t eat for two days.”
And, he adds, these kids aren’t just thinking of themselves, they’re gathering food for their siblings as well. “That’s when we created Bags of Hope Central Florida,” he says.
Bags of Hope Central Florida
Founded in 2009, Bags of Hope Central Florida (BOHCFL) is a program that offers homeless, displaced and poverty-stricken children bags of food to sustain them and their families over the weekend, books to keep them focused on school and, most of all, a consistent, friendly volunteer to help mentor them. The program has now evolved to serve three Central Florida schools and some 300 children.
Each school identifies the children in need and every Thursday or Friday, volunteers with BOHCFL come to the school and meet with the kids for an hour. “We call it the Bags of Hope Central Florida Kids Club,” says Mark. “It’s more than just a bag of food to sustain them over the weekend. That’s the immediate need. What makes the program work is the mentoring we do,” he says
Each volunteer is assigned specific children – each week he or she spends time with that child asking questions about school, their spelling tests and more.
“This one-on-one mentoring has been the difference in the program,” Mark explains. “These children need a person who they can consistently see—someone who encourages them to dream big.”
Each bag of food includes bread, fresh fruit, veggies and proteins such as peanut butter, canned meals, rice, beans, canned chicken and tuna, Vienna sausages and macaroni and cheese.
Reading is fun-damental
In addition to supplying the bags of food, the organization has a reading program. The children get to bring a new book home each week.
“We have a book team,” says Rhonda. “This team helps match up kids with a book on their reading levels, and they get to keep that book,” she says. “If they have a sibling, we encourage them to bring a book to him or her too.
“Children living in poverty tend to put the whole family before themselves,” says Rhonda. “We give them the book to keep so they have something to own. It’s a symbol and helps with the insecurity they may have. After all, these children are bouncing place-to-place, motel-to-motel.”
And, if the children want to, they can complete a book report on the book. Bags of Hope Central Florida volunteers, generally retired teachers, will talk to them about the book and their report; then the child gets to select a prize from the treasure chest.
Children will stay in the Bags of Hope Central Florida Kids Club until there is no longer a need or they move on to middle school, according to the Santolins.
“We targeted elementary school children because they’re easy to identify,” Rhonda explains.
Adds Mark, “We just want to plant the seed to help them cope and prosper in school. The bandage is the food; the program is the solution. We want to teach them to focus on education. That’s how they can fix their futures.”
Keeping kids in school
For Mark, being with the kids energizes him.
“I started mentoring one young fourth grader,” he says. “He was very destructive and had behavior issues at school. He’s in fifth grade now and his behavior has improved dramatically. These kids just need a consistent face each week.”
Both Santolins say that being able to provide this program is a blessing. “Our goal has always been to turn the word ‘faith’ into a verb,” says Mark. “We’ve driven to trailer parks and had starving children take food and desperately eat it immediately. How can you see that and not do something about it?”Read More »
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Every year, Elizabeth “Liz” Paul, a broker-associate with RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers, visits the offices of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida, a cause she’s been supporting since 1992. And, each visit moves her and inspires her to do more.
“They have a wall that’s made up of pictures that symbolize abused children who were killed or died. It’s so moving. That wall reinforces why I’m involved,” says Paul.
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida (CACSF) offers protection and programs for abused children. Paul was president of the CACSF from 2001 to 2003 and currently sits on the board of directors. “We aim to stop the cyclical abuse,” says Paul, who’s been in real estate for almost 25 years.
Because of the confidential nature of the cases and the clients, it’s not possible for volunteers to physically interact with the children. So, Paul does anything and everything else she can. From developing and implementing fundraising activities to making important policy decisions, she spends several hours a week with the CACSF.
In fact, when the organization bought a building a few years ago and renovated it, Paul was instrumental in securing the property and helping with the renovation project. She was also on the capital committee to raise funds for the new building.
“We have an after-school program in some of the lower income, distressed neighborhoods,” Paul says.
Perhaps her favorite activities, however, revolve around the holidays. She serves the Thanksgiving meal and looks forward to adopting a family every Christmas. Each Thanksgiving, the CACSF puts together a feast for the kids and families it helps, which includes traditional holiday fare and ethnic favorites.
Paul explains, “We personally serve the food. It’s amazing, we have hundreds of people show up, and it’s fun to see how it evolved. We added some Hispanic foods and did away with stuffing and green beans at the request of the families.”
Paul has made such an impact on The Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida that in 2004, an award was created in her honor. The Elizabeth Paul award is given periodically to a volunteer who demonstrates the qualities of leadership, commitment and the willingness to go above and beyond for the benefit of the Center and the kids.
“They’ve given it four or five times over the years,” says Paul. “It’s such an honor to have this award named after me.”
In addition, she’s been named Humanitarian of the Year by the Realtor® Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beaches and was named Associate Realtor of the Year by Florida Realtors.
Currently, Paul is encouraging her fellow Realtors to donate stuffed animals to the Center. “There’s an ongoing need for stuffed animals. In times of crisis, these kids need something to hold onto. They serve as emotional support for the kids,” she says.
In addition to her work with the Center, Paul donates money out of every paycheck to support Children’s Miracle Network.
Paul says she is thankful for the CACSF.
"It’s helped make me more aware of the people out there who need help,” she says. “These are good people caught in unfortunate circumstances. As Realtors, we sell homes and we connect with families. We are a part of the community and must do something for the greater good of that community."
Liz Paul is as dedicated to her profession as she is to helping others. She was named Florida Realtors® Associate Realtor of the Year in 2006, which is an award given in recognition of an individual’s contributions to their local Realtor organization, community, the state Realtor association and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Paul also has taken additional education courses to enhance her knowledge and expertise, earning the professional designations of Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) and Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI).Read More »
BOCA RATON, Fla. – Talk to Timothy M. Kinzler, CEO and team leader of Keller Williams Realty in Boca Raton, for just a few minutes and you’re ready to conquer the world. Kinzler has a unique energy that attracts others and gets them motivated to succeed.
“People need to know how much you care before they care how much you know,” says Kinzler. “I was always taught to be professional, personal, productive and profitable with passion.”Read More »
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – About 10 years ago, Rick Macdonald was just trying to get his elementary-school-age kids to appreciate all they had when he took them to Jacksonville’s Cleveland Arms Apartments, a low-income housing project in a dangerous part of town.Read More »
NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Hardwig recently played tennis at her summer camp – a typical camp activity, right? Not for nine-year-old Hardwig who’s been legally blind since birth. The camp Hardwig attended is for visually impaired children, the only one of its kind in Collier County. The tennis? They use a sound ball so the kids can hear it coming at them.Read More »
Sarasota Realtor Sue Wolverton follows through on her goals in business and in life. While crossing items off her “bucket list,” she has ridden an elephant, piloted a plane, gone scuba-diving, been a mascot at a University of Oklahoma football game and learned to fly an aerial ballet at the Sarasota Circus.
SARASOTA, Fla. – Her bucket list is 100 items long, but about half of the items are already crossed off: That’s because Sue Wolverton, senior vice president, Southwest region, of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate LLC in Sarasota, says if she can dream it, she can do it.Read More »
Family is important to Realtor Claudette Bruck, who is shown here visiting with her three nieces and some of their children.
TAMARAC, Fla. – A Dancing Mickey Mouse was at the top of a little boy’s Christmas list. And, Claudette Bruck, CCIM, GRI, a real estate professional with Multiple Choice Realty Investments Inc. in Tamarac, wasn’t going to sleep until he got it.Read More »
BOCA RATON, Fla. – The year: 1975. Singer/songwriter Dennis Lambert was at the Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Awards dinner in New York City preparing to accept an award for songwriter of the year.
“I won for four or five of the most-performed songs on the radio,” he says. Lambert even invited his parents to attend as his guests. “My mom got up. I didn’t think much of it, until she returned, tapped me on the shoulder and introduced me to John Lennon,” laughs Lambert. “It was the funniest thing. John Lennon did an imitation of my mom’s New York accent, then told me how proud he was that I won the songwriter award,” he says. “As you know, whenever a Beatle showed up at an event, it was a big deal.”Read More »
BOCA RATON, Fla. – At an age when most people are slowing down and considering retirement, Mike and Betsy Owen with Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Boca Raton decided to work harder than they’ve ever worked before in Khao Lak, Thailand—a place devastated by the tsunami of 2004.Read More »