REALTOR®’s Viral Image Raises Her Nonprofit’s Profile
January 25, 2019
Even more than two years after his death, Jennifer Hodge’s son appears to still be helping her charity—which received honors from the National Association of REALTORS®—realize its vision.
Hodge, a sales associate with Century 21 Results in Cumming, Ga., and a 2015 recipient of NAR’s Volunteering Works program, has become a worldwide media sensation after having an apparent supernatural encounter with her late son, Robbie. And the exposure is helping spread awareness about Hodge’s nonprofit, Realty4Rehab, which partners with real estate professionals to donate a percentage of referral fees to fund treatment for those suffering from drug addiction. Robbie died in 2016 from an accidental overdose of synthetic Xanax.
The media frenzy started after Hodge received a digital notification from her Nest Secure home security system that the entryway camera in her home spotted a person. The system generated a photo showing a figure in her kitchen who looked eerily similar to Robbie—even down to the beard. Hodge shared the image on Facebook, along with the story of her son and nonprofit, which he helped her set up in 2013. Since then, news outlets across the globe have featured Hodge’s story, and she’s even been approached by film directors to produce a movie. “It’s just crazy how much it’s blown up,” Hodge says. “I’m getting so many messages through Facebook from kids who are stopping drugs because of Robbie, mothers whose lives changed because of Robbie. It’s incredible.”
Hodge lives in a part of the Atlanta suburbs known as the “Heroin Triangle,” where the state of Georgia is experiencing the fastest growth in drug overdoses. Donations to Hodge’s charity go toward organizations that help in the prevention, education, and rehabilitation of drug addicts. Since its founding, Realty4Rehab has expanded to include a second chapter in Cobb County, Ga.
Yvette Williams, a sales associate with PalmerHouse Properties & Associates in Atlanta and Hodge’s partner in the nonprofit, also lost her son, Andrew, to drugs in 2016. “We’re just two moms trying to figure this thing out,” Williams says. “If [Hodge’s story] is the platform we need to get the word out [about Realty4Rehab], then so be it.”
Hodge says her widespread media exposure has helped direct people’s attention to the greater cause: the opioid epidemic that is devastating communities around the country. She puts her faith in the real estate community—which often drives thought leadership in local neighborhoods—to keep the issue of drug addiction alive in the national conscience. “The only thing that’s going away is our loved ones,” Hodge says. “We’re not doing enough for the parents, or for the grandparents, and we’re the largest trade association. Once REALTORS® step up and say, ‘This is an issue, and we need to address it,’ I think everybody will stand up.”
Updated: October 15, 2019