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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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Sabrina Cohen, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Miami Beach and member of the Miami Association of Realtors®, knows what it’s like to face challenges in life. As 14-year-old, Cohen was in a car accident and, in the blink of an eye, was paralyzed from the neck down.Read More »
Kevin Spina, at front, shows his paddle board style while traveling from Bimini to Palm Beach as part of the Piper’s Angels Foundation’s 2018 Crossing for a Cure. He and his brother Kraig, in the background, helped raise more than $26,000 to fight cystic fibrosis.
PALM BEACH, Fla. – Kevin Spina is no stranger to athletic competitions. He’s is an avid runner and cyclist, having completed over 20 marathons and numerous triathlons. Most of the competitions raised money for different charities.
“I’ve been involved in different fundraising groups when I did marathons years ago, such as the Achilles Foundation and the Leukemia Foundation,” says Spina, of the Keyes Company’s Spina Group in Palm Beach. “You’re lucky in life, so you give back.”
However, the biggest challenge was the one he recently completed in the summer of 2018. Along with a fleet of stand-up paddle boarders, kayakers and board enthusiasts, Spina, accompanied by his brother Kraig, crossed the Gulf Stream in the middle of the night to help raise $26,390 to help fight cystic fibrosis during the Piper’s Angels Foundation’s 2018 Crossing for a Cure. The team exceeded their goal by more than $6,000.
In just 15 hours, the Spina brothers completed the 75-nautical mile journey from Bimini to Palm Beach on stand-up paddle boards. Crossing for a Cure was started by Travis Suit, whose daughter, Piper, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of four. This year, the event raised more than $250,000 towards inspiring action and improving the lives of those impacted by the disorder.
Spina says, “I met Travis when I was in the Bahamas last year at the time this event was taking place. I’ve become friends with him and am proud to raise money for such a good cause.”
So, how does one go from running and biking to paddle boarding?
“I was looking for something new, because I’m not able to run like I used to, so I started paddle boarding,” Spina says.” My brother and I trained. Every weekend, we did a long paddle of 30 to 38 miles. However, we didn’t have to deal with a lot of currents like we did during the actual event.”
His brother, Kraig, isn’t in real estate. “He is a water person though,” adds Spina. “He (Kraig) surfs and rides bikes on dirt courses.”
“Our Keyes family is about more than just real estate,” said Mike Pappas, president and CEO of The Keyes Company. “It’s always great to see members of our family raising money and awareness for important causes, and Kevin’s dedication to Crossing for a Cure perfectly epitomizes our company values.”
The Keyes Company holds several philanthropic Keyes Cares initiatives throughout the year to give back in the six counties where the brokerage operates. With a variety of events on different scales, such as the Keyes Cares Walter Reyes Memorial Golf Tournament, the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, partnering with Move for Hunger, the Wounded Warrior Project and Over the Edge event, Keyes hopes to spark innovative, passionate ideas to encourage community service among its 3,500 associates.
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Many children are encouraged by parents and teachers to try out a musical instrument. But, in the Slivon household, it was a requirement.Read More »
PALM HARBOR – Broker associate Jodi Avery, of Keller Williams Realty in Palm Harbor, fielded the same question from sellers over and over: What can I do with the useable items I don’t want to take with me when I move?Read More »
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 »