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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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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Pictured are members of Coldwell Banker CORE (Culture of Real Estate), or CB CORE, a year-old group that offers help to people of different ethnicities who may be struggling to buy homes. Shown standing at center is Darrell Burks, chair of the southeast branch of CB CORE, with Donna Reid, seated at left, and Nancy Klock Corey, seated at right.
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – When Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, Nancy Klock Corey, regional vice president of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, Southeast Florida, in Miami Beach, learned some valuable lessons.Read More »
MIAMI – When Kara Zeder Rosen was in college, her mom invited her to a luncheon for Kristi House. “My mom was on the board, but at that time I wasn’t involved in the charity,” says Zeder Rosen, a sales associate with The Jills Zeder Group of Coldwell Banker in Miami.
That all changed once she heard the luncheon’s keynote speaker, a sex abuse victim who was helped by Kristi House Inc., a non-profit in Miami dedicated to healing and eradicating child sexual abuse and sex trafficking.
Zeder Rosen recalls: “It was there that I learned about the horrors of child sexual abuse, its pervasiveness, one in four girls, one in seven boys, and the toll it takes on a family. But it was also at that lunch, when hearing one of our child victims share her story, that I realized the young girl speaking was no longer a victim but a survivor, standing in front of hundreds of strangers telling her story of triumph. Yes, it was heart-wrenching. Yes, I had tears and couldn’t believe what this poor child had been through – but at the end of the day, there was hope, not only for her but for all victims. It was clear to me that Kristi House was her light at the end of the tunnel; we were her unicorn.”
From that day on, she was hooked.
“The more I learned, the more I wanted to help,” she says. “I learned sexual abuse was a cancer, but that Kristi House had the cure. While we can’t change a child’s past, we can change their future. So, I went to work doing what I could with incredible support from my family, friends, amazing board members, and most of all, the extremely dedicated angels at Kristi House.”
That was in 2012.
“I’ve been president of the board since 2015,” Zeder Rosen says. As president, she says, ensuring services to help those in need has been her priority. Kristi House has a $4.4 million budget and has been operating for 24 years out of six locations.
She adds, “We saw over 1,400 children and their families last year at no cost to them, and Project Gold helped 45 girls heal from the complex trauma of child sex trafficking.”
All of Kristi House’s services are entirely free.
“No one pays a dime, so, fundraising is a huge portion of what we do on the board,” she says.
The group is also extremely involved in outreach and education, according to Zeder Rosen.
She notes, “It’s a topic that people aren’t comfortable talking about, but we want to educate parents, teachers, everyone. The more that we’re learning about child sexual abuse, the more tools we can give children to learn about what’s appropriate and what’s not. The more they know, hopefully, the more you can prevent it.”
While Zeder Rosen says she would love to work with the victims that the Kristi House serves one-on-one, “We [board members] don’t interact with our clients because we respect the privacy of those who are there [at Kristi House.] Many have cases that are going to court, so the board members are dealing with the state attorney or police.”
All of those who come to Kristi House inspire her, Zeder Rosen says. “When I walk into the lobby, and children are waiting to be seen, and you know they are in the right place, it inspires you to keep working to serve as many people as you can. The work I’m doing behind the scenes is helping them,” she says. “Honestly, it’s changing their lives forever for the better. They’re going from victim to survivor. And, I’m proud of that.”
Want to know more about Kristi House, or possibly make a donation? Go to http://www.kristihouse.org/.
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – When Roslyn K. Berrin decided to start a career, she chose commercial real estate.
So what, you ask? Well, the year was 1955 and commercial real estate was dominated by men. Yet, she walked into the office of broker Ken Rosen and told him that she wanted to sell land.
“Developers did a double take when I walked into their office to make a presentation, and required that I, as a woman, be a repository of information rarely required of male brokers,” Berrin said in an article in the South Florida Business Journal. “Developers thought they were paying me a compliment when they said, ‘What I like about you, Roslyn, is you act like a woman, but you think like a man.’”
Berrin, now 95 years old, went on to found Berrin Realty Inc. in Coral Gables, Fla. “Things are very different today than when I started my career in commercial real estate in the early 50’s, a field that was completely dominated by men,” she recalls.
Berrin was recently given a lifetime achievement award by CREW Miami (Commercial Real Estate Women). CREW Miami has established the Roslyn K. Scholarship Fund to encourage the next generation of women pursuing bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in commercial real estate fields.
While she still holds an active license, Berrin no longer practices real estate on a daily basis. But she keeps a desk and office.
For Berrin, it’s important to encourage women to take risks and do what they love despite challenges.
“I have a note pad on my desk, given to me by a friend that says: Women who think they are equal to men lack ambition,” she says.
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PORT ORANGE, Fla. – Trying his hand at a professional golfing career after college, Don Bell, with RE/MAX Signature in Port Orange, realized that it was time to switch to real estate.Read More »
PLANTATION, Fla. – Born in the Virgin Islands, Vernell Roberts, broker-owner of Horizon Real Estate Solutions in Plantation, had a father from Trinidad and a mother from Dominique.Read More »
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Beverly Garvin, a Realtor® with Watson Realty Corp. Hidden Hills office in Jacksonville, believes in the power of her peers in bringing change to the real estate industry.
“You have to be involved. You can’t expect change if you’re not involved in helping to make the change,” says Garvin, who was inducted into the Realtors® Political Action Committee (RPAC) Hall of Fame in recognition of her contributions and support.
Garvin started in real estate in December 1969 and joined Watson in January 1970. To enhance her knowledge and expertise, she has completed advanced education and professional development courses through the National Association of Realtors (NAR), earning the Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI), Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB) and the Performance Management Network (PMN) designations.
“I wanted a job where I could set my own hours, have unlimited potential and was flexible enough that I could tend to my small children,” she says.
From the beginning, Garvin realized the power of getting involved. She’s slowing her pace some now but remembers fondly her year as president of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors (NEFAR), followed by her term as the state president for the Women’s Council of Realtors.
“Both gave me opportunities to grow, work and unite people. We reached heights that we never reached before,” she says.
One of the projects she was passionate about was building a house, sponsored by her local association, for an underprivileged family. “We built a house in a week’s time through Habijax,” Garvin recalls. “We furnished the house for a lovely mom and it was completely paid for.”
She’s learned a lot of lessons in her years with Watson and in volunteer leadership. The one that sticks out the most is this: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
“Working with people, you see so many personalities and it’s so easy to judge or strike out at people who aren’t on the same pages as you,” Garvin says. “Learning to effectively work with different personalities has been my biggest challenge, yet also the most rewarding part of volunteer leadership and brokerage office management.”
As the manager of the brokerage’s Hidden Hills office, which she’s been managing since the 1970s, she’s learned to quickly adapt to change.
She adds, “My agents have changed over the years, but at the same time, we also have some who have been here a long time. We have such a wonderful atmosphere. We’re a family and supportive of each other. The agents are competitive, but they realize that by supporting each other, they’ll all do better. I have always believed in the motto: Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM).”
It’s that view that she takes into her volunteer work as well, especially when it comes to RPAC.
“RPAC is there to help shape the future of our industry,” says Garvin. “I’m proud to be a part of the Hall of Fame, and even prouder to have been a supporter all these years.”
The Hall of Fame recognizes dedicated members whose RPAC investments total an aggregate of at least $25,000. Members are inducted at NAR Realtor meetings in Washington, D.C., and are recognized with a lapel pin and an inscription of their name on a commemorative plaque on the rooftop of NAR’s building in D.C.
“Supporting people who know the value of homeownership rights is vital. RPAC has given us the opportunity to be involved and give back to the community,” says Garvin, who’s worked on several local political campaigns for people running for city council. “To see the candidates we helped get elected grow and move on to do great things is rewarding.”
Garvin also supported NEFAR’s and Florida Realtors’ efforts advocating to remove a sales tax on that state lawmakers had approved on advertising and professional services (repealed in 1987).
She recalls, “That was such a fiasco, as it impacted anyone who provided a service to the community. Getting that defeated was a huge success.”
Garvin has been active in local, state, and national Realtor associations throughout her career, and currently serves as the chairperson of the NEFAR’s Charitable Trust. She also serves on her local association’s Professional Standards, Legislative and Candidate Screening committees.
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Residents of Chipley and other areas in the Panhandle struggled in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael with the devastation caused by downed trees, flying debris and other damage. Cindy Birge, a local Realtor, saw many needs and joined forces with fellow residents and other Realtors to help community recovery efforts.
CHIPLEY, Fla. – Cindy Birge is no stranger to hurricanes and powerful storms. After all, the broker-owner of Elite Realty in Chipley and member of the Central Panhandle Association of Realtors® has lived her whole life in the Panhandle. Hurricane Michael was different, she says.Read More »
Orlando Realtor Benjamin Urrutia, shown at far right wearing a gray suit with a red tie, proudly represents the Maitland Rotary Club, which partnered with the Bogota-Occidente Rotary Club to raise money to help underprivileged children in his home country of Colombia. A former member of the Bogota-Occidente Rotary Club Urrutia visited Colombia this past fall to present equipment and money to the cause.
ORLANDO, Fla. – Community service has always been important for Benjamin Urrutia, a sales associate with Charles Rutenberg Realty in Orlando.
“I came to Orlando in 2003 after living in Colombia and Chicago,” says Urrutia. “While in Colombia, I was a member of the Rotary Club of Bogota-Occidente, so once I was in Orlando, I joined the Rotary Clubs of Maitland to serve my community.”
Urrutia is doing more than serving his Orlando community. He’s also helping underprivileged children in his home country of Colombia.
“There is a large population of underprivileged children with the syndrome of cleft lip and palate,” he says.” Without medical intervention, life will be hard for them.”
So, he and other members of the Maitland Rotary Club came up with the idea to partner with the Bogota-Occidente Rotary Club to help those children by donating money to buy equipment for a rural school in Bogota. Once that money was raised, the group moved to their second goal – to fund an organization called Fisulab, which provides medical and psychological help to children and teens who have a cleft lip and palate. Fisulab was founded in 2000.
“It does more than medical care,” says Urrutia. “They have family workshops where they talk about the different aspects of cleft lip and palate, such as social consequences, how to deal with grief and a walk-through before and after surgery.”
He says, “It’s so important to help these children assimilate into the community.” With Urrutia’s help, the Maitland Rotary raised some $37,000 to donate to Fisulab.
He recalls, “I was able to visit Colombia in October 2018 to present at the official ceremony when we delivered the equipment and money.”
What Urrutia saw moved him.
“It was exciting to see kids who were now adults and had been through treatment – kids who learned to talk again and were now engineers, psychologists and nurses,” he says. “They were able to overcome their handicap and become productive members of society.”
He was especially taken with a “fellow who was now an architect and plays the piano. He had such a hard time when he was younger trying to pronounce words correctly, and now he’s a success,” Urrutia says.
While this project is now completed, Urrutia has encouraged the Maitland Rotary Club to take on a clean water initiative.
“We would like to repair the desalination plant in a rural area of Colombia inhabited by Indian tribes,” he explains. “The area is so close to the ocean. Without a working desalination plant, the water is brackish and of inferior quality.” Their goal is to raise $27,000 for the project.
For Urrutia, it’s all about serving others.
He says, “It is part of our job as Realtors and within the Rotary International Creed to serve others above oneself. I believe deeply in that creed.”
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