Realtor Louise McLean helps the auctioneer get the bids going at a recent fundraising auction for the Brevard’s Children in Need Committee, which helps provide coats, shoes, band instruments and other needs for homeless children in the county through the Brevard Schools Foundation.
MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. – About three years ago, Louise McLean, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential in Merritt Island, saw a 60 Minutes television segment about homeless children in Brevard County.
“It touched me. The next day I called the Brevard Schools Foundation and asked what I could do to help. They told me they had 964 identified homeless children in the county and they needed money,” says McLean, a nine-year real estate veteran. “That number has jumped to 1,600 in two short years,” she says.
As an active member of Space Coast Realtors, McLean called on her board’s Association Executive Leah Selig to figure out a way to reach out to local Realtors®. “I just wanted a donation of $5 from any Realtors who could donate,” says McLean. Two days after watching the 60 Minutes segment, McLean was standing in front of the association’s board of directors. “They were excited about raising money for these children and wanted me to form a committee. We sent out an email blast to Realtors asking for help and raised $12,000 from that one email,” says McLean.
Since then, McLean has organized the Brevard’s Children in Need Committee and has been instrumental in raising about $100,000 for the Brevard Schools Foundation to benefit the county’s homeless children. “The money helps homeless children with needs, from a new coat or shoes to a band instrument—anything to keep them included and involved in school,” she says.
It was a chance encounter with the Cocoa Beach Area Hotel and Lodging Association that allowed McLean to amp up her fundraising efforts. That group became a corporate sponsor. “The Hilton offers us free venues for our fundraising events, and they provide us with food. It’s amazing,” she says. “We also teamed with Macy’s on its Shop for a Cause program.”
The events allowed McLean to fund seven college scholarships for underprivileged children in addition to money to provide homeless children with school essentials.
For McLean, knowing these children are taken care of is well worth the time and effort.
“One boy that really inspires me to keep moving forward is A.C.,” she says. “When he was very young his parents separated. His living circumstances were so volatile that he couldn’t take it anymore and ended up living in a car in the woods in Palm Bay. That was between his junior and senior years in high school. He had great grades and was a dedicated student despite all of this.
“We pulled together along with one of his past teachers and helped him find a place to live, gave him money to help him graduate and go to prom. He graduated. He didn’t get lost in the system, and we’re so proud of him.”
It’s evident that McLean does more than raise money; she offers hope. During the holiday season, she discovered that children at the homeless shelter would not have presents to open on Christmas morning. She raised enough money to provide 17 homeless children with at least five presents each (including bikes) on Christmas morning.
And, she recently coordinated a countywide “Prom Queen for a Day” event.
“We asked people and retail vendors to donate prom dresses and accessories, then invited girls from several local high schools to a local hotel (which donated space),” says McLean. “We had a taxi service pick them up, and they got to choose from dresses, shoes, jewelry and more—everything they needed for prom, including the prom tickets.”
By raising money to help these kids, “We take the burden off the teachers and guidance counselors who delve into their own pockets to ensure these children attend school and have what they need,” McLean adds.
She says that she gets as much out of her community service as the kids.
“I now tend to appreciate everything,” she says. “This experience has opened my eyes, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. The first year I put my real estate career on the back burner to get this off the ground, and it was worth it.
“I had never raised money before, but I wanted to show the world what Realtors are all about,” McLean says. “It blows my mind. All I wanted was $5 from each agent, and it turned into so much more. If you take a few minutes to let a person know you care, it’s amazing what they’ll do to change their circumstances. They walk away from the bad and toward the good.”