MANALAPAN, Fla. – “If you don’t give these kids somewhere to go, the gangs will take them.” Spoken by Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw at a Boys & Girls Club of America event, that statement resonated with Kathryn Gillespie, a Realtor with Illustrated Properties in Manalapan, Fla.
“It really saddened me because the children he was talking about are pretty wonderful,” she says. “That was the real hook for me to get involved with the Boys & Girls Club.”
Since then, Gillespie and numerous other Illustrated Properties Realtors have gotten involved with club events. She’s immediate past-chair of the Boys & Girls Club of Boca Raton (which she chaired for four years); has headed up organizational fundraisers in both Broward and Palm Beach counties; and either chaired or helped support fundraising events like Casino Night and Concours d’Elegance, the latter of which raised more than $10 million for the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County.
In real estate for 29 years, Gillespie transitioned from commercial to residential about five years ago because she “loves bringing people to properties.”
Working with Illustrated Properties’ agents Pat Evans, Nicolette Goldfarb and Marley Goodman – all of whom chaired a recent fundraiser event, the Wellington Dinner Dance at the International Polo Club – Gillespie enjoys becoming a part of the fabric of her community. She says every personal connection she makes has a special meaning.
“As Realtors,” she says, “it’s just better when we all work together.”
Virginia M. Spencer, general manager of Illustrated Properties in Palm Beach County, says, “Our entire company does a lot for the organization, with specific agents taking on and participating in various causes that support the Boys & Girls Club.” Spencer served on one of the club’s grant committees that established its “Keyboards for Kids” group piano classes.
Through her charitable work, Gillespie says she’s learned just how giving the Boca Raton community is.
“This is where I live, where I go to church, and where my children attended school,” she says. “It’s a community that cares about everyone, and not just the top 1 percent.”
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JUPITER, Fla. – Being the wife of a professional baseball player wasn’t easy. “We moved so frequently, and it was hard on us,” says Holly Meyer Lucas, a sales associate and leader of the Meyer Lucas team at Compass Real Estate in Jupiter. In fact, when her husband Ed Lucas got called up to the big leagues, Meyer Lucas was pregnant with her first son.Read More »
Getting the Pensacola Water Safety Day off to a fun start are Harry Walker, shown at left, and Jack Lynch, right, with their friend, Howard the Duck.
PENSACOLA, Fla. – Summertime means swimming and sun for Florida children. It’s only natural that water safety courses would be plentiful in the Sunshine State, and it seems most kids should know how to swim in their toddler years. But, that’s not always the case.Read More »
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – As a child, Paul Snitkin’s father taught him many lessons. According to Snitkin, vice president, broker and head of the commercial real estate division of Anderson & Carr in West Palm Beach, the two most important were that, one, there are no short cuts in life; you must work hard. And the second? Giving back to the community is vital.Read More »
Actor G.W. Bailey, from the TV show Major Crimes, is pictured with Naples Realtor Rick Fioretti at a recent event for the Sunshine Kids Foundation.
NAPLES, Fla. — In 2002, Rick Fioretti was introduced to the Sunshine Kids Foundation and immediately made serving the organization a brokerage-wide goal.Read More »
Realtor Tamara Williams, shown in the back row, center, is pictured with several participants in the local Pace Center for Girls program, along with other organizers and volunteers.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Tamara Williams, broker/owner of Sweet Life Realty Group in West Palm Beach, is a giver. “I come from a family that gives back. From the time I could drive myself, I would go to nursing homes (to visit the elderly residents),” she says.
Sarasota Realtor Sally Rackey, pictured in the pink shirt at left, holds the Gofundme check that she and her Realtor colleagues made possible through their fundraising efforts to help their Realtor friend Fred Sieger, pictured in the middle with the green hat.
SARASOTA, Fla. – Fifteen years ago, Sally Rackey didn’t set out to be the person monitoring cell-phone use during listing meetings at the Sarasota Association of Realtors® (now known as the Realtor® Association of Sarasota and Manatee) but, says the broker/owner of Sally Rackey Realty in Sarasota, “someone had to be the bad guy!” After all, when someone’s phone went off at the weekly meeting, she would collect $5 from that person –and all the money went to charity.Read More »
Casey Joiner, left, accepts a donation to Sandcastle Kids, the nonprofit organization that he and his wife Shelley, center, founded to provide children battling cancer time with family and fun on the beaches of Destin and South Walton Florida. Also pictured at far right is Allie Hershman, a Realtor colleague of Casey’s and a supporter of Sandcastle Kids.
SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. – Several years ago, Casey Joiner and his wife Shelley, saw several friends “walking through some battles with childhood cancer. We felt the need to do something,” says Casey.Read More »
LAKELAND, Fla. — Every year for the last five years, Marie Hanna, a broker-associate with WebPro Realty LLC in Lakeland, pulls out a letter written to her by a young girl. “The nine-year-old girl lived in an underprivileged area, and her house had been broken into. She was traumatized by that experience,” says Hanna.Read More »
BRADENTON, Fla. – As a real estate professional, Tony Barrett knows what it’s like for buyers who have trouble affording a home, especially military veterans. “Closing costs and downpayments are two obstacles that are frustrating for veteran homebuyers,” says Barrett, broker-owner of Barrett Realty in Bradenton.
So, Barrett is doing something about it with Heroes Welcome Home, a non-profit that helps veterans get closing cost and downpayment assistance as well as help with rent and utilities.
The idea came after working with a Marine who was looking for a home.
“In 2012, I met a kid named Mike McGowan. He came back from active duty as a Marine. He was looking for a home, and, through a city of Bradenton bond program, was given $10,000 for downpayment assistance. We went through the process, got him prequalified, and found a home. Everything was going well with financing until they told him he had an insufficient work history to qualify,” he says.
Barrett, who is also a veteran – an Army combat medic and a member of the Army Reserves – made several phone calls that were dead ends. “I was trying to educate the banks about veterans and their needs. I figured it was easier to start something on my own,” he says.
Unfortunately, McGowen lost around $1,000 in the cost of inspections and appraisals over that home. Soured on the experience, McGowen still hasn’t bought a home, says Barrett.
That experience prompted Barrett to take action. “I was devastated after Mike lost his money, and I didn’t know how else to help. When I was in the military, credit was easy. You could buy cars and furniture,” he says.
Barrett, his wife Kelly and a firefighter friend, Rob Riganati, started Heroes Welcome Home in 2013. It’s now officially a 501c3 organization,” Barrett notes. The program helps with closing cost assistance up to $3,000 for veterans who qualify.
“It’s a hand up, not a handout. Not everyone qualifies. There are limitations on the price of the home. We also recently expanded into different assistance programs, including helping World War II veterans on home repairs, and working with homeless vets to get help with rent and utilities,” says Barrett.
The very first veteran the program helped needed $2,500 to close on his home. “We issued him a check. He told me now he could afford a washer and dryer,” he says.
Heroes Welcome Home has helped about 20 veterans to date. The program now raises money through golf tournaments and other community events. Many of the veterans who received help now volunteer to staff events.
And, in 2017, The Realtor® Association of Sarasota and Manatee chose Heroes Welcome Home as its giving partner. “They raised over $5,000 for us and volunteered at our events,” Barrett recalls.
However, it’s often difficult to give away money to vets, he says, noting “they don’t want to take the money as they are proud.”
Regardless, Barrett is available to get them credit counseling and other services if they are willing to accept the help. “We reach out to vet-owned companies and ask them to help with the work on the homes in disrepair or volunteer for our events,” he says.
“I want to do anything I can do to thank these men and women for serving our country,” says Barrett.
To learn more about Heroes Welcome Home, go to httpss://www.heroeswelcomehomefl.com/
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