John Castelli, a Broward County Realtor, receives his Humanitarian of the Year Award from 2012 Florida Realtors President Summer Greene at the Florida Realtors Convention & Trade Expo that year.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Unpredictable things happen in life: Cancer may sideline a man’s career or a car accident permanently puts a 15-year-old boy in a wheelchair.
“Before the car accident, that young man was an athlete and an avid basketball player,” says John Castelli, GRI, ePRO, broker-senior partner with Castelli Real Estate Services in Fort Lauderdale. “As boys do when they’re teenagers, he grew. By the time he was 20 years old, he had outgrown his wheelchair, but the family couldn’t afford to buy a new one.”
The driver who caused the accident didn’t have insurance, and the victim’s mother was taking care of him and several siblings on her own. Castelli and the Realtor® Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale Charitable Foundation stepped in to help.
“He was teaching other handicapped children how to play basketball, so he really needed a sport wheelchair. We ordered him a specialized wheelchair,” says Castelli, a member of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors®, who has been involved in the foundation since 2007.
Giving to the Community
Castelli is one of 15 trustees for his association’s charitable foundation, which was started in 1987 to help those who have specific needs that can’t be met by any other source. He also served as the foundation’s president in 2011 and 2012.
“We do everything from negotiating leases for people to giving them emergency cash for rent,” he says. For his efforts with the foundation and other community organizations, Castelli was named a co-winner of Florida Realtors® Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2012.
All of the trustees contribute to the foundation, but Castelli stands out for his work with the Broward Partnership for the Homeless. Every year, Castelli dresses as Santa Claus and throws a party for the children at the homeless shelter. Children are given toys, clothing and shoes.
“Every year we ask the kids at the homeless shelter to write a letter to Santa with their list of wants,” he says. “We go out and buy every single gift listed and also include things they wouldn’t ask for such as underwear and pajamas.
“Then, we wrap all the gifts, I dress like Santa, and we have a party. These children are so amazed that we care so much for them. We buy them bikes, skateboards, even guitars. We buy the moms something special as well.”
In addition to the party, Castelli and the other trustees have vowed to replace the shelter’s decrepit playground equipment. He explains, “We’ve taken it upon ourselves to rebuild the playground. We’re selling tiles and benches with people’s names on them. We’re even seeking donations for people to sponsor and put their names on the playground equipment.” Castelli says they hope to raise $50,000 for the rebuild.
The foundation, which gets about four requests a month, helps anyone who has an immediate need, which includes Realtors who may need special assistance.
“One Realtor – an avid biker – started feeling crummy one day,” Castelli recalls. “He had blood work done and was diagnosed with leukemia. The treatment devastated him. He couldn’t work, he was going to lose his home, and he didn’t have enough to pay the power bill. We paid his bills for three months to get him through the worst so he could concentrate on getting better rather than worry about his bills.
Today, that Realtor is back at work and doing well.”
Overall, Castelli is thankful he’s able to help the community that gives so much to him and his profession. “We’ve all gone through an economy that was terrible. We’ve all had to fight harder to make it through,” he says.
Castelli is as dedicated to his profession as he is to helping others. He has taken additional education courses to enhance his knowledge and expertise, earning the professional designation of Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI) and the certifications of Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) and e-Pro (which refers to cutting-edge technologies and digital initiatives). In 2012, Castelli was named a co-recipient of Florida Realtors® Humanitarian Realtor of the Year Award for his work with the Realtor® Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale Charitable Foundation and his other volunteer community efforts.