Humanitarian of the Year at the state association’s annual convention and trade expo.
ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 31, 2015— Florida Realtors® has named Cynthia Shafer as its 2015 Humanitarian of the Year, proving that Realtors make a difference in their communities. McLean is a sales associate with Lahaina Realty in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.
The awards were presented during the state association’s recent 99th annual Convention & Trade Expo at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla.
Shafer began teaching disadvantaged children how to read while she was still in high school, and she hasn’t stopped volunteering since that time. She has been a child advocate for more than 45 years, including shepherding abused, abandoned and neglected children through the legal system and foster care as a Guardian ad Litem volunteer for more than 20 years.
Shafer spends her weekends working with two programs she created: Duffels for Dignity and Beds for Kids. Both programs provide items to transplanted children who may not have the things they need to make a move more comfortable and less traumatic, such as a toothbrush, a pillow, a stuffed animal or even a bed to sleep on.
Inspired by a story she heard of a grandmother who was unable to take custody of her grandchild because she didn’t have a bed for the child, Shafer and her husband John started Beds for Kids. It provides foster children with a new bed and bedding, including delivery and setup. The program has provided up to 300 new beds and bedding annually in emergency situations throughout five counties in Southwest Florida.
In the last 12 years, Shafer has purchased six trucks – on a typical Saturday, she and her husband may travel 300 miles delivering beds and bedding to children, teens and young adults. Since the couple started Beds for Kids, they have delivered more than 9,000 beds, sheets, pillows, blankets and stuffed animals. The Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs are generous donors for the cause, while the Southwest Quilters Guild sews at least 100 quilts a year for toddler, crib, twin and double beds. Another group, The Linus Project, also makes blankets and pillows for the program.
The 2015 award marks the second time Shafer has been recognized for her volunteerism and advocacy on behalf of children – she also was honored with Florida Realtors Humanitarian Award in 1998. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) named her a Good Neighbor Award winner in 2002, and she was Florida Realtors 2009 Associate Realtor of the Year.