2018 Good Neighbor Finalists

10 Good Neighbor Finalists Represent Hearts of Servants

These REALTORS® make an extraordinary impact on their communities through volunteer service.

August 30, 2018

She waded through toxic floodwaters to rescue people from their collapsed homes after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico last September. He built nine dams for poor villagers in India, giving them access to clean water and stemming the uptick of dysentery deaths among infants. They have helped hundreds of developmentally disabled adults find housing, employment, and the dignity of living independently.

These and other acts of heroism are reflective of the 10 open-hearted, civic-minded REALTORS® named as finalists for REALTOR® Magazine’s 2018 Good Neighbor Awards. Now in its 19th year, the Good Neighbor Awards honor REALTORS® who have given back to their communities. This year’s crop of finalists have gone to astronomical heights—some even risked their own lives—to care for the sick, poor, and needy in neighborhoods at home and abroad by donating their time, money, and passion to various causes.

“This year’s 10 Good Neighbor finalists have raised the bar in building stronger communities at home and around the globe,” says Elizabeth Mendenhall, president of the National Association of REALTORS®. “They inspire all of us about the true meaning of giving back, and we are proud of these REALTORS® for dedicating hundreds of hours of their personal time to these important causes.”

Five winners, who will each receive a $10,000 grant and national media exposure for their charities, will be announced Oct. 2. But until then, you can help decide the finalists’ fate: Now through Sept. 28, vote for your favorite finalist at realtor.com/goodneighbor. The candidate with the most votes will receive a bonus $2,500 grant for his or her organization, and the second and third runners-up will each get $1,250. The battle for Web Choice Favorite may be fierce; last year, 93,000 votes were cast.

Meet the 10 Good Neighbor finalists and learn about their inspirational stories of selflessness.

Omayra Borges

Omayra Borges
Reality Realty
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Borges co-founded the nonprofit Fundación Mochileando 100x35 to bring hope after the destruction of Hurricane Maria. She focused on remote mountain villages—some of the hardest-hit and most difficult to access—delivering essentials like water and medicine and repairing homes. She has raised $1.1 million and helped 45,000 people.

Chet Choman

Chet Choman
Colorado Realty and Land Co.
Alamosa, Colo.

Choman co-founded one of the first rural homeless shelters in the country and has dedicated 40 years to fighting homelessness and hunger. Today, La Puente Home is a 45-bed shelter that also operates after-school programs and 15 food pantries, serving about 16,000 people annually. That’s one out of every three people in the six-county area, which is larger than Massachusetts.

Annette Evans

Annette Evans
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties
Livingston, N.J.

Evans has spent 30 years as a volunteer board member at JESPY House, a nonprofit advancing independence for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In that time, she has taken on multiple roles and has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. She works as a parent advocate, helping to prepare them for their adult children to age in place at JESPY House.

Necia Freeman

Necia T. Freeman
Old Colony REALTORS® of Huntington
Barboursville, W.V.

Freeman founded the Backpacks & Brown Bags ministry to feed children who don’t have enough food at home on the weekends and to assist opioid-addicted women—some of whom are the children’s mothers. Her work can be seen in the Emmy- and Oscar-nominated 2017 documentary Heroin(e).

Richard L. Harris

Richard L. Harris
Richard Harris & Associates, Inc.
Palm Harbor, Fla.

Harris is the volunteer president of a $12 million nonprofit, The Arc Tampa Bay, which supports and empowers people of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities. His business and real estate expertise helped the organization reduce costs, increase revenue, obtain grants, and invest wisely so it can do more for a great number of people.


Michael LaFargue
Coldwell Banker Residential

LaFargue is a tenacious champion for communities, taking leadership roles in multiple nonprofits related to transportation, schools, neighborhoods, and parks to drive change in underserved areas of Chicago. He led an effort to install 40 neighborhood security cameras that led to the arrest of suspects in the murder of a local judge. He also leads the Red Line Extension Coalition, which helps drive a $2 billion, 5.3-mile train route expansion that would benefit people in underserved areas.

Jeremy Lichtenstein

Jeremy Lichtenstein
RE/MAX Realty Services
Bethesda, Md.

When Lichtenstein realized that thousands of children didn’t have enough to eat in his wealthy Washington, D.C., suburb, he sprang into action. He founded the nonprofit Kids in Need Distributors (KIND) in 2012, which has grown from providing weekend food for 37 students at one public school to now serving some 2,100 children in 25 schools.

Joy Nelson

Joy Nelson
Haugan Nelson Realty
Watertown, S.D.

Nelson founded the 126-acre Joy Ranch to share her love of open land and horses with others in her community. The fully ADA-accessible ranch is a place where people of any ability can go horseback riding and enjoy many outdoor activities without being limited by medical concerns. The ranch also provides equine therapy for kids and adults with disabilities and psychological challenges.

Jack Persin

Jack Persin
Baird & Warner
Naperville, Ill.

Persin co-founded Naperville Responds for Veterans, a nonprofit that helps low- and moderate-income veterans and their families live with dignity and remain in their home as they age. The nonprofit has helped nearly 200 veterans by making much-needed repairs, replacing aging systems and adding retrofits like wheelchair ramps to accommodate disabilities.

Elias Thomas III

Elias Thomas III
EXIT Key Real Estate
Shapleigh, Maine

For 40 years, Elias Thomas has volunteered with Rotary International, including leading volunteer trips to India to immunize children against polio and build a system of dams to provide villagers with access to clean water. He has led more than 350 Rotarians from around the world on these trips and has raised more than $350,000.

—REALTOR® Magazine