BRANDON, Fla. – When Connie Johnson, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Brandon, Fla., gets involved, things get done.
“I always want to be the best at whatever I’m involved in, and now I’m passionate about helping others achieve their goals as well,” she says. And that drive doesn’t just apply to real estate sales, it applies to her charity work as well. After all, the year she became president of Rebuild Tampa Bay was the same year the Super Bowl came to Tampa – 2009. “I wanted to shake it up a bit and instead of rebuild homes, I wanted to transform a community,” she says.
And, she did just that. In fact, the charity usually remodels or rebuilds some 30 homes a year. The year Johnson was president they remodeled 72 homes. “We had 700 volunteers, and in one neighborhood, we put in new floors, roofs, we even reconstructed one from the ground up,” she says. And, in keeping true to her love of animals, she took care of having all the neighborhood animals spayed, neutered, registered and up to date on their shots.
For the past 20 years, Johnson has been involved in multiple charities aimed at helping animals, families and children. “I’ve always been involved in animal training,” says Johnson, who is currently president of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and has been involved in the organization since 2005. Police dogs, service dogs and show dogs – Johnson has volunteered her time to train them all. “I’ve made two American Kennel Club world teams,” she says. In fact, she’s even worked with the Michael Vick dogs and other cruelty cases.
"I always want to be the best at whatever I’m involved in, and now I’m passionate about helping others achieve their goals as well,” she says. And that drive doesn’t just apply to real estate sales, it applies to her charity work as well. After all, the year she became president of Rebuild Tampa Bay was the same year the Super Bowl came to Tampa – 2009. “I wanted to shake it up a bit and instead of rebuild homes, I wanted to transform a community."
Editor’s note: Now on the Philadelphia Eagles team, Michael Vick played quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons before serving 21 months in prison for his involvement in an illegal interstate dogfighting ring. He pleaded guilty to federal felony charges in August 2007.
“I used to say that I sold real estate to support my dog habit,” says Johnson. But, that all changed when sales slowed. “I started volunteering more at the shelter and really struggled with that, thinking I needed to spend more time on my real estate business,” she says. Ironically, it was this time at the shelter that actually increased her real estate business. “I was making connections with people coming to visit or adopt the animals. We had a connection, a relationship because of that, and these people turned into real estate customers.”
It was also during this time that Johnson started a new initiative – the Best Friends Program – to help troubled teenagers at the juvenile justice department. “I’ve always worked with juveniles and specifically with the PACE Center for Girls, but I wanted to mesh my love of animals with helping troubled teenagers,” she says. So, she started a program where the teens come to the shelter and she chooses a dog for them to work with. “These kids transform. They don’t know how to be compassionate because they’re from families that don’t know how to show them love. I love to see the look in their eyes when they actually feel love for the animal and know that the animal loves them.”
And, the program is working. “I had a 17-year old boy who was a really hard case. He didn’t want anything to do with the program and had been in trouble time after time. When he was in jail, no family members visited him. My goal was to change his life. So, I started telling him stories about the football players with whom I’ve worked and about my work with the Michael Vick dogs. He finally agreed to come to the shelter, and I set him up with the biggest, baddest pit bull there,” she says.
The dog was a cruelty case and Johnson explained to the boy that the dog had the same kind of life that he had, the dog just wanted to be loved and trusted. “When I saw the two together, the dog licking his face and the boy laughing, I knew I had done my job,” she says. Unfortunately, Johnson is not updated on the status of the kids once they’re released, but, says Johnson, “He’s out and hasn’t been back, so that tells me something.”
At the end of the day, says Johnson, “It’s really touching for me. I know I’ve saved a life or helped someone who thought there was no hope. I’m a survivor and I have to help those who are unable to help themselves; it’s who I am
Not only is Connie Johnson passionate about strengthening her community, she also is a dedicated Realtor who has taken additional education courses to enhance her knowledge and expertise. She has earned the professional designations of Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) and Graduate, Realtor Institute (GRI). In 2010, Florida Realtors honored Johnson as its Humanitarian of the Year for her dedication to the community and the real estate profession.