Realtor® and race car driver Bruno Junqueira acknowledges fans and gets ready for the track.
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. – While winding down his Formula One racing career, Bruno Junqueira, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Key Biscayne, decided to start investing in Miami real estate.Read More »
SARASOTA, Fla. – After spending years volunteering at annual events and participating in board meetings, Christina Pitchford, broker-owner of Suncoast Homes and Dreams in Sarasota, decided she wanted to be “more hands-on because it makes me feel whole,” she says.Read More »
Realtor® and runner Dave Fleisher gets ready for the start of the Keys 100 event in May 2019.
BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – Wanting to do something to support the community during the coronavirus pandemic, David Fleisher, a broker-associate with CENTURY 21 Stein Posner in Boynton Beach, reached out to the hospitals in West Boynton to see if he could volunteer.Read More »
Punta Gorda Realtors® Steve and Debbie Vieira, pictured at left and center, during the Vieiras on Veterans Day signing of their family’s land in a donation to the Veteran Excursions to Sea for a future 5,000-square-foot facility.
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – Years ago, Steve and Debbie Vieira, Realtors® with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Punta Gorda, were introduced to a co-worker’s husband, who was a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. That meeting gave rise to an idea – a way to give back to those who have given so much in service to their country.Read More »
DESTIN, Fla. – It’s always gratifying to see a previously homeless person no longer living on the streets, says Jackie Pilcher, a Realtor® with ResortQuest Real Estate in Destin.Read More »
JUPITER, Fla. – Andrew Levy, an agent with Echo Fine Properties in Jupiter, knows it’s his job as a real estate professional to keep up with what’s going on in the community.
“I watch the local news, check local Facebook groups, and attend local government and community meetings,” says Levy.
But staying on top of what’s happening isn’t just for business purposes: He’s able to discover areas of need and help out, which is the part that Levy appreciates the most. For example, he found out about – and then paid off – almost $1,000 in lunch debts at two Jupiter schools.
He first heard about that need through a Facebook group.
“I’m a member of a few Jupiter Facebook groups, one of them is called Jupiter Mamas. Although I’m not a mama,” laughs Levy. “But they share a lot of valuable news and information. In fact, any update that comes out of that group goes straight to the top of my newsfeed.”
From that group, a post came up about how many of the local schools had lunch debt.
“I thought, ‘What does that even mean?’” says Levy. “And, I wondered how that would impact the kids. With all the pressures for children in school today, to have to worry about getting lunch is a horrible thought.”
Levy researched the issue, drove over to the food services management division for Palm Beach County schools and told them that he wanted to clear the debts.
“I took my checkbook out and wrote the check. At that time, it was about $944,” he said. He also discovered that lunches cost between $2 and $2.30 per child in elementary and middle schools. Students with lunch debt aren’t denied lunches at school but will get a sandwich instead of a regular entrée.
At the time Levy donated, Palm Beach County had more than $51,000 in lunch debt.
Since then, Levy has started a GoFundMe page called, A Child Can’t Learn Hungry. To date, he’s raised $4,248 and that money will go directly to Palm Beach County schools to pay off lunch debt.
Already, $4,000 has paid off lunch debts in nine Jupiter schools.
“I hope to continue this for years and grow it countywide – and, one day, statewide,” says Levy.
The story about Levy went viral and he got calls from national daytime shows as well as invites from reporters.
“I was on the front page of CNN online. The story was trending for over 48 hours. I even had a headline news special on me where I did a video chat with a reporter,” he says.
Levy has big plans for the future of A Child Can’t Learn Hungry.
“I like the grassroots side of this, which is the GoFundMe page, but I would also like to reach out to corporations to sponsor donations because we have a strong, tightknit community. I also think we can grow and expand by becoming a 501(c)(3) organization,” he says.
Levy adds, “I learned from my father the importance of proving a concept locally before expanding it, but I do have big plans. You can’t neglect what needs to be done in your community, and real estate agents are perfectly positioned to hear about those community needs.”
To donate to A Child Can’t Learn Hungry, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/childrencantlearnhungry
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Several years ago, Andrew Bell, broker-owner of NextHome Assurance Realty in Jacksonville, was asked to dress up as the Blues Brothers and perform with a friend at a Women’s Council of Realtors® event. “I thought, ‘well, I guess this works as my friend (Peter Gruenther) was tall and thin like Dan Aykroyd, and I resembled Jim Belushi (the original Blues Brothers),” says Bell. “We were such a hit that people started asking us to perform at other events.”
One event was for the Realtors® Political Action Committee. “It was at the Pink Flamingo Lounge, so we decided to dress in pink suits,” he says. “People were off their rocker; they loved us,” he says.
Bell decided that they should take advantage of the popularity and the pink suits to do something positive in the community.
“Obviously, the pink suit ties in with breast cancer,” he says.
Through his research, Bell met Jeri Millard, founder of In The Pink.
“It’s a store that provides things people need when they go through chemo and have cancer, like mastectomy bras, wigs, lotions and more. They also have head-shaving parties and yoga,” says Bell, who notes that In The Pink is not just for those with breast cancer, it’s for any type of cancer. “They not only provide physical support but emotional support as well. What I liked the most is that Jeri told me that no matter whether the person has insurance or not, they all get the same stuff. They were providing a service to people who didn’t have the money to get what those with insurance would be able to get easily.”
He says, “We’re in real estate. It’s all about the community. So, with In The Pink, all of the money raised stays in the community. In fact, for every dollar raised, a dollar goes toward helping local people with cancer.”
For Bell and Gruenther, it was the perfect fit.
“Wherever Jeri needs us and whenever Jeri needs us, we’re there to raise awareness and money,” Bell says. “For several years, we had a float in our local Beaches Parade. We’ll perform at a chili cookoff fundraiser, we’ll emcee events. With the last chili cookoff, more than $24,000 was raised. That wasn’t just from us. It’s a whole team that puts on this event.”
For Bell, participating in a charity that helps people in the community is vital.
He adds, “I believe local monies raised should stay in our community. Of course, I want to help everyone, but too often, with bigger charities, you’re sending a quarter of the money out of state. I want to make an impact where I live and work. Let’s go out and raise awareness. Let’s create a buzz. Let’s create some excitement and get people to dig deep into their pockets because the money that they’re spending is helping people here in our community.”
However, Bell says, “the true unsung heroes are the people who we’re helping raise awareness for, and that’s all that matters.”
For more information on In The Pink, go to https://jaxinthepink.com/location/jacksonville-beach/
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MIAMI – As a Cuban immigrant, Justine Jimenez Garcia, broker-owner of Countywide Properties ERA Powered and a coach with the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), knows how important it is to mentor young Latino students on the possibilities for success.
“My alma mater is Miami-Dade Community College, so I wanted to give back,” she says.
Jimenez Garcia’s parents came to Miami from Cuba in 1970. “My parents saved enough money washing dishes and cleaning hospitals to buy their first home,” she says. “A couple years after that, my father became ill and passed away. Having that home meant safety to our family.”
That prompted her to get into real estate in 1994.
“When I got into the business, I had a very good role model as a broker. I saw that if you worked hard, long hours and knocked on people’s doors and introduced yourself, you had a very good opportunity of controlling your own destiny,” says Jimenez Garcia, who was named a Top 250 Latino Real Estate Agent by NAHREP.
Knowing how hard it is to be successful in business, Jimenez Garcia wanted to help students see the possibilities and opportunities out there for them.
“I work with college students,” she explains. “I let them come into my office and teach them how to network and market themselves. I serve as a role model. I give them a roadmap into being a business owner and starting out. It opens the doors for them. It opens their eyes.”
One of Jimenez Garcia’s first mentees now is a successful attorney practicing real estate. Jimenez Garcia also shows students the benefits of homeownership.
She says, “There are studies that say that kids born into a rental household are more likely to rent, and the ones born in a home that is owned are more likely to own. We can change that by mentoring young people and teaching them about how important it is to own a home. My ultimate goal is to have the Latino community grow their wealth and have more than 50% of them own homes.”
Jimenez Garcia also speaks around the country educating Latino entrepreneurs on how they can build their businesses.
“Access to capital is a big issue for Latinos,” she says. “It’s something that NAHREP is trying to work on through its wealth project: The goal is to develop more Latino millionaires and help businesses grow.”
The path to success is education, Jimenez Garcia believes. “I just completed the National Association of Realtors®’(NAR) C2EX program, and I highly recommend it to all Realtors®.”
Overall, she encourages Latino students to look for any and all opportunities.
“I tell them to keep their eyes open and get out and network,” she says. “There’s a program I talk about a lot. It’s in collaboration with Stanford and it empowers Latino entrepreneurs to grow. It’s called the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative. I want to spread the word about those programs. Volunteering in your community will make you a stronger business leader.”
And, that, says Jimenez Garcia, is worth the hard work and long hours she puts into her business and the community.
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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.
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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