TAMPA, Fla. – Rick Harris, CEO and president of Richard Harris & Associates Inc. in Tampa, is no stranger to the highs and lows of raising a child with Down’s Syndrome.
“My son, David, started with UPAR, now called The Arc Tampa Bay, when he was a baby in the infant stimulation program,” says Harris. “He’s now 38 years old and lives with five other adults in an Arc group home.”
David’s entry into the group home came at a time when, says Harris, “We were overwhelmed with his care. He became violent and needed to be in a group home. It took three years to get him transferred [to the home], and we were lucky because sometimes you have to wait 10 years.”
Because of this, Harris got involved with The Arc Tampa Bay hoping his real estate experience could help the organization create more housing for the developmentally disabled.
Harris served as the volunteer President of The Arc Tampa Bay, a $12 million nonprofit that runs housing and educational programs for about 275 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He is a member of the organization’s Board of Directors.
The Arc TB runs 18 group homes and a 22-unit apartment complex that house more than 150 people. These facilities require remodeling, renting, and sometimes buying and selling, which is made easier with Harris’s real estate expertise. In addition to the years of experience he has accumulated through his real estate business, Harris has earned the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) and General Accredited Appraiser (GAA) designations from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).
He has helped The Arc increase its revenue by $250,000 a year.
“He most certainly has put his real estate knowledge to good use,” says Steve Heller, a past president of The Arc TB. “He just puts his heart and soul into trying to do good for our organization and for people who can’t help themselves.”
The Arc TB runs an art studio, offers classes such as drumming and cooking, and has a work center with assembly lines. “We’re trying to make it so they reach the highest level of independence,” says Polly Stannard, president of The Arc Tampa Bay Foundation. “Managing and making sound decisions for all these facilities, Rick has truly lent his training and his talents to better our organization.”
Harris also thinks about the big picture. “Often with a nonprofit, you’re inundated with your day-to-day operations, and you may not be thinking about this global perspective and bringing some business expertise into the mix,” says Hauenstein. “His insight into the markets and the value of the properties we’re going to invest these nonprofit dollars into have led us to make wise decisions.”
Harris adds, “[Our clients] are special. They have unique talents that a lot of people don’t recognize. One of the artists has autism, can barely speak but has such talent in expressing himself through art.”
At the art studio, Michael Minieri, 56, who was born deaf and has intellectual challenges, wields a paintbrush and colored pencils to create artwork for an annual art show, where some artists sell paintings for as much as $1,400. Without The Arc, “He would have been drawing randomly,” says Carl Minieri, Michael’s father, whose two sons live at The Arc TB. “They do a great job of watching over [them] and giving [them] a great quality of life.”
More than 100 people have found work through The Arc TB’s Supported Employment Program and Work Center, where they may assemble hangers, for example. And about 30 people work for local businesses like the movie theater. “Every one of the 250-plus people we serve is different, but all should be valued in our community,” says Sheldon Hershman, executive director of The Arc TB, who also notes that Harris has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to upgrade their properties.
An ongoing challenge for Stock, Harris, and other board members is balancing the budget, especially when state and federal funds are shrinking. “Costs to operate are increasing faster than funding,” says Harris. And yet they also want to pay their employees fair wages. During Harris’s service as president, The Arc increased compensation for direct-care staff from an average of around $9 an hour to more than $10 an hour. To make this happen, Harris advocated for additional funds from The Arc TB Foundation and added a grant writer to find funds for capital improvement projects.
Harris also took on long-range planning and created a wish list for each property. One goal, which he received a grant to pay for, is to use solar energy to save money. (The annual electric bill for The Arc TB is $130,000.) “With every good idea, you have to have a plan to execute it,” says Harris. “I feel my experience in real estate and leadership has benefited our organization and brought it to a higher level where we can afford to help [more people].”
Harris remains committed to helping the people at The Arc TB live their most productive and joyful lives. “These are the less fortunate who people think have nothing to contribute to society. But they do. You have to find that talent and bring it out.”
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) named Rick Harris as a Good Neighbor Honorable Mention Award winner in 2018. Parts of this article were reprinted with permission of NAR’s Good Neighbor program. Learn more about The Arc Tampa Bay at thearctb.org.
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ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 8, 2020 – Do you have kids currently in college, or maybe one who is about to graduate high school? Are they interested in a possible real estate-related career? Then find out more about the Student Scholarship Program offered through Florida Realtors® Education Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that provides real estate-related educational scholarships. But act fast: The application deadline for this year’s program is March 9, 2020, at noon.Read More »
ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019 –Florida’s housing market reported more single-family home sales and higher median prices, as well as increased pending sales and pending inventory in November 2019 compared to a year ago, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 21,842 last month, up 6.1% from November 2018.Read More »
HIALEAH, Fla. – In her early 20s, Rosa Hammer, now a sales associate with The Keyes Company in Hialeah, was working as an airplane riveter.
“World War II was happening, and I lived in Akron, Ohio. I did the riveting for the Navy’s Corsair fighter. It was the one that landed on the carriers,” she says.
In 1967, Hammer decided to go into real estate after being a stay-at-home mom to her four kids for 12 years. Now, at 100 years old, Hammer still holds an active license, although she isn’t selling too much real estate these days.
“I stopped about a year ago when I started using a walker,” she says.
Hammer has seen a sea change in the real estate industry, from major technological advancements to a different way of marketing. However, some things have stayed the same. For example, when Hammer first started in the business, she went door-to-door to meet potential customers.
“I passed out my cards,” she says. While that may still be a common practice, at the time, Hammer didn’t have a computer or cell phone. “I used a typewriter to fill out contracts, payphones when I needed to call people, and drove around a lot meeting new people,” she says. “When you were done prospecting, you went back to the office. The secretary hands you your messages and you start calling people back.”
Wanted to look up properties at that time? Hammer recalls, “We had a big, thick book called Bressler’s book, that had all the property information in it for our area. And, on 27th Avenue in Miami Lakes, there was a big building that had maps for anyplace you wanted to go. I would spread them out on tables and do my research there.”
She notes that, at the time, women were just starting to get into real estate.
“It was more difficult to become a real estate agent. You had to get a broker to sponsor you and then you went to school,” she says.
With a husband in the Air Force, Hammer was used to moving. She adds, “We moved 17 times when he was in the military. Each time, I had to find a house. I sold my first home in Panama City myself and learned quite a bit. I had an attorney. I like doing it, so when my kids were old enough, I decided that real estate was for me.”
Hammer’s husband passed away 20 years ago. They were married for 55 years and have four children, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. “I still read everything I can [about real estate] and check what’s for sale every week,” she says. “The business is different, but cell phones and the computer have made it so much easier.”
Even though, as a centenarian, Hammer is slowing down, real estate will always be a part of her life. “I enjoy real estate; it’s my passion,” she says. Her enthusiasm for the profession is still going strong.
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ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 4, 2019 – A strong dollar, worsening global economic outlook and rising U.S. home prices slowed international sales during the past year in Florida Realtors®’ latest international report. However, domestic buyers may have stepped in. Overall, Florida home sales and prices have continued to rise, potentially fueled by more buyers from within the U.S.Read More »
ORLANDO, Fla., Nov.21, 2019 – Florida’s housing market reported more single-family home sales, more pending sales, higher median prices and rising pending inventory in October 2019 compared to a year ago, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 23,440 last month, up 5.2% from October 2018.Read More »
Florida Realtors®, National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) PropertyMark Sign Agreement for the Future
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 11, 2019 — Florida Realtors® and the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)/Propertymark in the United Kingdom have signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Leaders of the two real estate professional organizations signed the agreement during the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Conference and Trade Expo taking place in San Francisco, Nov. 8-11, 2019.Read More »
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 8, 2019 — Florida Realtors® and the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) today signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Conference and Trade Expo taking place in San Francisco, Nov. 8-11, 2019.Read More »
ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 7, 2019 – Florida’s housing market experienced positive trends in 3Q 2019, with more closed sales, higher median prices, more pending sales and rising pending inventory, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 78,759 in 3Q 2019, up 8.1% from the 3Q 2018 level.Read More »
ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 22, 2019 – During September, Florida’s housing market reported more closed sales, higher median prices and increased pending inventory compared to a year ago, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 23,510 last month, up 11.5% from September 2018.Read More »