Good Neighbor 2018 Award Winners

A Nod of Appreciation to 2018 Good Neighbor Winners

October 3, 2018

If you’re wondering whether heroes still exist in a world where greed and power seemingly reign supreme, we found five.

The National Association of REALTORS®’ 2018 Good Neighbor Award winners have shown incomparable dedication to improving the lives of people in their communities and beyond, stepping in to provide aid in desperate situations when no one else could or would. They’ve waded through toxic floodwaters in Puerto Rico to pull Hurricane Maria victims to safety, enabled developmentally disabled children and adults to live more independently, and helped bring clean water for the first time to some of the poorest communities in India, among other causes.

These five REALTORS®—whom NAR declared Tuesday as the victors of the annual awards program, now in its 19th year—represent everything that’s good about the REALTOR® family, says National Association of REALTORS® President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “This year’s Good Neighbors have inspired their communities and made a lasting impact by going the extra mile to help others in need,” Mendenhall said in a statement. “These selfless individuals remind us all of the true meaning—and importance—of giving back to our communities.”

Each of the five winners will receive a $10,000 grant for their charity and a crystal trophy to be presented Nov. 3 during the 2018 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston. The winners are:

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. Read her story, and watch her video.

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. Read his story, and watch his video.

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. Read his story, and watch his video.

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. Read her story, and watch her video.

Elias Thomas III

Elias Thomas III
EXIT Key Real Estate
Shapleigh, Maine

For 40 years, Elias Thomas has volunteered with Rotary International—one of the world’s largest charities—including leading volunteer trips to India to immunize children against polio and building 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. Read his story, and watch his video.

5 More Named Honorable Mentions

Five additional recipients also are being recognized as Good Neighbor honorable mentions. They each will receive $2,500 grants. This year’s honorable mentions are:

  • Annette Evans, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties, Livingston, N.J., for JESPY House, which supports developmentally disabled adults.
  • Necia T. Freeman, Old Colony REALTORS® of Huntington, Barboursville, W.V., for Backpacks & Brown Bags, which helps opioid addicts find a path to recovery.
  • Richard L. Harris, Richard Harris & Associates, Inc., Palm Harbor, Fla., for The Arc Tampa Bay, which helps developmentally disabled children and adults.
  • Michael LaFargue, Coldwell Banker Residential, Chicago, for the West Chesterfield Community Association, which drives community safety and development.
  • Jack Persin, Baird & Warner, Naperville, Ill., for Naperville Responds for Veterans, which makes free home repairs for veterans in need.

Voters Have Their Say

2018 “Web Choice Favorites” are: Michael LaFargue, Necia Freeman, and Joy Nelson.

In September, the public voted online for its favorite of the 10 Good Neighbor finalists, casting 165,000 votes—up from 93,000 last year. (The top three vote-getters will receive bonus grant money courtesy of Good Neighbor sponsor®.) This year’s “Web Choice Favorites” are: Michael LaFargue, who will receive an additional $2,500 bonus donation for the West Chesterfield Community Association and the Red Line Extension; Necia Freeman, who will receive an additional $1,250 for Backpacks & Brown Bags; and Joy Nelson, who will receive an additional $1,250 for Joy Ranch.

The Good Neighbor Awards have been presented annually since 2000 by NAR’s REALTOR® Magazine. More than $1.1 million in grants have been awarded to the winners’ charities since the inaugural award. NAR’s Good Neighbor Awards is supported by primary sponsor® and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Learn more about the program at

REALTOR® Magazine