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.
“They started calling me the telephone lady,” she laughs. In a few weeks, people were purposely setting off phones just to give Rackey $5 and hear her quips.
“I wanted to make it fun, so I would sneak up on people and make funny jokes,” she says. When she collected enough money, the group would vote on which charity would receive the funds.
She says they gave money to everything from Habitat for Humanity and the American Cancer Society to the Mayor’s Feed the Hungry program and Harvest House, a program for the homeless. One of the most popular was the Paws for Patriots program, which trains guide dogs for disabled veterans.
“We collected enough funds to name a dog. We named him SAR-geant (SAR for the Sarasota Realtor organization),” she says.
Giving comes naturally to Rackey.
“I think it really started when I moved from Washington state to Virginia,” she recalls. “I went to a church and someone heard me sing. I studied opera in college. The person asked if I would sing at the service. I did, and they gave me $50. I thought it was a wonderful gift. I figured I would take that gift and turn around and give it to someone else.”
In fact, she gave more than $50 to a friend in need; she gave the person a house!
“A woman, Tina Darling, runs a marketing company that many real estate professionals use for e-blasts and fliers. In 2007, her home burned to the ground, and she lost everything, including her dogs. I didn’t know her, but I went to her office and told her I had a house for her,” says Rackey, who had recently had a home built but hadn’t moved in yet. “They moved in and I got to work collecting furniture for her. She and her family stayed for six months while their home was being rebuilt.”
Rackey says the two are close friends now and laugh about the day some stranger burst into Darling’s office with an offer for a house.
Another successful fundraiser was for “beloved Realtor Fred Sieger who was not able to work due to treatments for throat cancer,” Rackey says. The group set up a Go Fund Me account and applied for funds through various programs.
“We raised $35,000 for him,” she says.
In the course of that fundraiser, Rackey thought that there had to be a better way to get the funds immediately to the people who need it.
“Many times, people with illnesses or tragedy don’t have the money for rent or utilities and need it right away,” she says. “But, many programs require you to jump through hoops to get it and then it takes three to four months for the money to appear.”
So, she and two others in the real estate industry, Tim Mapp with Mapp Realty and Investment Company, and Aimee Rothrock with First International Title (both in Sarasota), decided to start their own 501c3 organization. While the charity doesn’t have an official name, the group calls it Project Genesis.
“The idea is that it gives us a formal way to collect money to help Realtors and other business affiliates in need. Since we’re local and know the people in the community, we can get the money to those who need it more quickly,” says Rackey. “It’s a small community, and this will help us make a difference in a more-timely fashion.”
While the 501c3 isn’t ready for business just yet, Rackey says they are finalizing paperwork to make the dream a reality. “We’ve secured two sponsors – The Flag Man and Bella Vita Homes – and they keep me inspired,” she says.
Rackey says that Realtors have a responsibility to help those in the community.
“We know the community so well,” she says. “We can see where the needs are, which neighborhoods need help or have been hit by storms or floods. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into meetings saying that I need money for someone and walked out with exactly what is needed to help. That’s the nature of the real estate industry and the professionals in it. We’re people-people.”