Wells Fargo Honors ‘Guardian Angel’
February 16, 2018
Cynthia Shafer, fourth from left, was presented with a surprise $2,000 check from the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation for her longstanding volunteer work to help foster kids and children who have been abused and neglected. The money will go toward her nonprofit, Bedz for Kidz.
Nearly 16 years after Cynthia Shafer was named one of REALTOR® Magazine’s 2002 Good Neighbor Award winners, her life-changing volunteer work with foster kids and neglected children in Florida continues. And now she’s receiving even more accolades—and funding—for her cause.
The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation surprised Shafer, AHWD, SFR, a sales associate at Lahaina Realty in Fort Myers, Fla., with a $2,000 check, five boxes of donated books, and 150 Wells Fargo “plush ponies” for her nonprofit, Bedz for Kidz. The organization, which Shafer founded in 2001, raises funds to buy and distribute beds to foster families so children in need of a caring and safe home have a comfortable place to sleep. Some foster families are asked to take in three or more foster siblings so that they won’t be separated, but often the home will have only one extra bed. Florida does not allow the foster siblings to stay in the home unless there is a bed to accommodate each. Shafer’s organization steps in to help provide families with the extra beds needed to make sure the kids remain together, which also keeps the foster system running smoothly.
Shafer’s unexpected honor sprung from a chance meeting with Martin Sundquist, executive director of the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Chicago last November. Shafer approached Sundquist at one of the convention booths, admiring the plush ponies he had brought with him as part of the company's marketing campaign. The ponies serve as Wells Fargo’s unofficial mascots, representing the steeds the company employed during the horse-and-buggy days of the 1800s.
It was then that Shafer began to tell Sundquist of her charity work. Since 2002, Shafer and her husband John have driven 120,000 miles throughout the five-county region of southwest Florida, delivering more than 2,300 beds to foster homes. Every week, Shafer divides her time between her real estate business, volunteering as a guardian ad litem to kids in the Florida court system, and dropping off beds—along with a book, clean sheets, and a stuffed animal—to foster children.
Her moving story sparked an idea for Sundquist. “I got Cynthia’s information and had the idea to surprise her and deliver plush ponies to her for use in her nonprofit,” Sundquist says. “The ponies are pretty exclusive to get. We’ve never done anything like this before.”
On the morning of Feb. 6, Shafer thought she was meeting Sundquist at the South Florida REALTORS® Association building in Fort Myers to further discuss the work of her nonprofit, but instead she walked unknowingly into a touching ceremony in her honor. Wells Fargo also took time to honor Shafer’s 94-year-old father-in-law for his military service. Shafer says the multiple layers of the event were somewhat overwhelming. “It just snowballed: Here’s the check, here are the horses, here are the books. It just built to an honor that filled my heart; it pounded a little harder and grew a little bigger,” she says.
Some of the foster children she’s helped over the years have reconnected with her as adults, Shafer says. They’ve thanked her for her generosity, and a few have even invited her to meet their families. That’s what helps her stay motivated. “I deliver the beds, and I see the kids jump for joy,” Shafer recalls. “I met a 4-and-a-half-year-old little girl who said to me, ‘You mean I don’t have to sleep in a bathtub anymore?’”
Sundquist says the opportunity to double down on the good work REALTORS® do in their communities every day is part of the reason Wells Fargo is a sponsor of the Good Neighbor Awards. “When you think about the selfless leadership of REALTORS® across the country, that’s why the Good Neighbor program has been such a great program to support,” Sundquist says. “They’re truly heroes. They make such a meaningful difference in what they do.”
—Lauren Tussey, REALTOR® Magazine
Updated: September 21, 2018