BRADENTON, Fla. – As a real estate professional, Tony Barrett knows what it’s like for buyers who have trouble affording a home, especially military veterans. “Closing costs and downpayments are two obstacles that are frustrating for veteran homebuyers,” says Barrett, broker-owner of Barrett Realty in Bradenton.
So, Barrett is doing something about it with Heroes Welcome Home, a non-profit that helps veterans get closing cost and downpayment assistance as well as help with rent and utilities.
The idea came after working with a Marine who was looking for a home.
“In 2012, I met a kid named Mike McGowan. He came back from active duty as a Marine. He was looking for a home, and, through a city of Bradenton bond program, was given $10,000 for downpayment assistance. We went through the process, got him prequalified, and found a home. Everything was going well with financing until they told him he had an insufficient work history to qualify,” he says.
Barrett, who is also a veteran – an Army combat medic and a member of the Army Reserves – made several phone calls that were dead ends. “I was trying to educate the banks about veterans and their needs. I figured it was easier to start something on my own,” he says.
Unfortunately, McGowen lost around $1,000 in the cost of inspections and appraisals over that home. Soured on the experience, McGowen still hasn’t bought a home, says Barrett.
That experience prompted Barrett to take action. “I was devastated after Mike lost his money, and I didn’t know how else to help. When I was in the military, credit was easy. You could buy cars and furniture,” he says.
Barrett, his wife Kelly and a firefighter friend, Rob Riganati, started Heroes Welcome Home in 2013. It’s now officially a 501c3 organization,” Barrett notes. The program helps with closing cost assistance up to $3,000 for veterans who qualify.
“It’s a hand up, not a handout. Not everyone qualifies. There are limitations on the price of the home. We also recently expanded into different assistance programs, including helping World War II veterans on home repairs, and working with homeless vets to get help with rent and utilities,” says Barrett.
The very first veteran the program helped needed $2,500 to close on his home. “We issued him a check. He told me now he could afford a washer and dryer,” he says.
Heroes Welcome Home has helped about 20 veterans to date. The program now raises money through golf tournaments and other community events. Many of the veterans who received help now volunteer to staff events.
And, in 2017, The Realtor® Association of Sarasota and Manatee chose Heroes Welcome Home as its giving partner. “They raised over $5,000 for us and volunteered at our events,” Barrett recalls.
However, it’s often difficult to give away money to vets, he says, noting “they don’t want to take the money as they are proud.”
Regardless, Barrett is available to get them credit counseling and other services if they are willing to accept the help. “We reach out to vet-owned companies and ask them to help with the work on the homes in disrepair or volunteer for our events,” he says.
“I want to do anything I can do to thank these men and women for serving our country,” says Barrett.
To learn more about Heroes Welcome Home, go to https://www.heroeswelcomehomefl.com/
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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Volunteering is not new to Ellen Mitchel, team leader of Prestige Properties Team and an agent with RE/MAX Advanced Realty in Hollywood. After all, she’s a licensed foster parent, is active with the Special Olympics in her area, and worked with the Department of Children and Family Services collecting and delivering holiday gifts for underprivileged families. But, it was a family vacation that truly was her “a-ha” moment.Read More »
STUART, Fla. — When Julia Sansevere, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Stuart, was 12 years old, she worked her first open house. “My mother was my first broker in Houston,” she laughs. “I was her little, unlicensed assistant, keeping an eye on the cookie platter.”Read More »
Photo caption: Finding, buying and fixing up dilapidated, vacant houses in the Orlando area is what these experts do best as part of the TV show, “Zombie House Flipping.” Shown from left: Keith Ori, Ashlee Casserly Greenberg, Peter Duke and Justin Stamper, plus Stamper’s chocolate Lab, Marley.
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VENICE, Fla. — Donna Palm, broker-associate of RE/MAX Alliance Group in Venice, started her real estate career not because she loved selling homes, although she did enjoy the work. She chose a career in real estate because she needed to redesign her life, she says.Read More »
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Luke Murphy is now a sales associate with Southern Land Realty in Tallahassee, specializing in land and large acreages. But when he was 17 years old, he decided his future was in the Army, so he headed to boot camp as soon as he graduated from high school. It’s just something people in his family did.Read More »
MIAMI — Always looking for a new challenge, RE/MAX Advance Realty (RMA) broker/owner Anthony Askowitz was asking his family for suggestions one day. On a whim, his brother-in-law’s girlfriend mentioned climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. “Within minutes, I went online and booked the adventure,” Askowitz recalled.
The grueling six-day climb of Mount Kilimanjaro took him across the globe and almost 20,000 feet above sea level. The successful ascent not only marked a personal goal for Askowitz but a charitable one as well. The local real estate leader invited friends and family to support a fundraising effort on behalf of Miami Children’s Health Foundation (which benefits Nicklaus Children’s Hospital) that has raised nearly $2,000 to date.
“I have been blessed with good health and opportunity, making this climb through challenging terrain and wavering temperatures possible,” said Askowitz. “Many children in our community are not so fortunate, and their courage inspired me to not only raise these funds but to keep climbing even when things got difficult on the journey.”
Supporting the community
RMA is a longtime supporter of the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals, whose local beneficiary is Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
“Anthony has been a longtime friend and supporter of the CMN Hospitals Program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital,” said Maria Moldes, senior director of programs and community relations for Miami Children’s Health Foundation. “Anthony’s passion for helping children in our community goes beyond leading the largest RE/MAX office in our community. Anthony always keeps CMN Hospitals top of mind with his creative fundraising efforts, including his annual online auction, his cufflinks sales, his yearly involvement with our MCHF5K walk, and his latest adventure, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! Anthony, thank you for making miracles happen for over 20 years!”
Preparing for such a climb was as big a challenge as the climb itself. Askowitz climbed Machu Picchu in Peru and did the Lost City trek in Colombia before tackling Mount Kilimanjaro.
“To say climbed would be a bit of a stretch in each case; these are more like very strenuous hikes!” he said. “To do this, I had to take a hard look at my level of physical fitness. Although I play quite a bit of tennis and am in relatively good shape, I also turned 50 this year and realized I needed to add some muscle and lose a few pounds.”
So, he hit the gym, adjusted his diet, and made sure he got plenty of sleep.
“After a typical day on the journey, which usually consisted of a nine-hour trek carrying a 15-pound backpack, I was very grateful for the additional training I had put my body through,” said Askowitz.
Askowitz is already on to his next challenge: “I want to visit the Amazon and live purely off the land for one week. Then, [I want to] live on a deserted island – Survivor-style (like the TV show). Finally, I would love an extended visit to Costa Rica, or another Spanish-speaking country and immerse myself so I can become fully fluent in Spanish.”
Whatever comes next, he’ll continue to support his community. In addition to his support of the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, he also does his part to help the homeless in the Miami area.
“I know it’s not much, but I carry around peanut bars and crackers to give to the homeless when I see them at intersections,” Askowitz said. “It’s an easy and personal way to help.”
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Katerina Brosda and several volunteers show some of the PJs donated for the Pajama Program.
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