Real Estate Pros Step Up in Dorian’s Wake

September 11, 2019

The real estate community is rushing to aid victims from last week’s Hurricane Dorian that skirted the U.S. coastline after crashing into the Bahamas as a powerful Category 5 hurricane. At least 70,000 people are reportedly homeless on Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, which were the hardest hit by Dorian.

Dorian’s heavy rains and powerful winds knocked out power as it followed the East Coast. The storm did not move as far inland as forecasters originally feared, but severe flooding and strong winds, some reaching 90 miles per hour, caused damage to communities including Charleston, S.C., and Cape Hatteras, N.C.

Real estate pro Omayra Borges with Reality Realty in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is no stranger to the powerful force of destruction that hurricanes can cause. Borges survived Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico hard in 2017. As Dorian gained power in the Atlantic last week, Borges began to prepare to respond with the nonprofit organization that she co-founded in the months following Hurricane Maria, Fundación Mochileando 100x35. The organization aids in hurricane relief, raising money, donating needed goods, and helping to repair housing. Borges’ nonprofit is coordinating its efforts with the Puerto Rico REALTOR® Association to bring needed supplies to areas badly hit in the Bahamas.

Borges plans to visit the Bahamas on Saturday to deliver supplies to storm victims on behalf of the organizations. Aid will be delivered in two phases, she says. The first phase is an immediate response to bring essential items, such as medicine, baby formula, dog food, electric generators and solar equipment, batteries, food, and other necessary supplies to those living in shelters in the affected areas. (The organization is accepting donations via Paypal.)

“We have a contact from a person who lives there who has not yet received help in that part of Abaco and who has been communicating with us,” Borges, a 2018 Good Neighbor Award winner, wrote in an email to REALTOR® Magazine on Tuesday. “We will try to get where they are. … We are anxious to get there and help.”

Kenneth W. Davis, a broker with Welcome Home Realty in Boca Raton, Fla., and a 2013 Good Neighbor Award Winner, is expecting the amount of children housed at an orphanage he supports in the Bahamas to double over the next few days due to the hurricane damage and the loss of several orphanages in Grand Bahama and Abacos. Davis has been a longtime supporter of the Cat Island Orphanage in the Bahamas, spearheading fundraisers to support the children there. He says the Cat Island Orphanage was spared as Hurricane Dorian ripped through the island, crediting a 2016 donation that allowed them to upgrade the building with more hurricane-resistant windows and doors.

Other real estate groups are heeding the varied calls for help in the aftermath. KW Cares, the charitable arm of Keller Williams, has issued 33 emergency grants, so far totaling $70,360, to Keller Williams agents and families affected by Hurricane Dorian.

“Those emergency grants mostly focus on helping agents and families evacuate from the storm’s path,” says Darryl Frost, spokesperson for Keller Williams. “We were solving for temporary travel, food, and housing needs. So far, our agents and families haven’t reported a robust amount of property damage. That said, we’re still in midst of assessing bigger damage claims at the moment.”

Regional leaders in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas have taken the lead in supporting disaster response efforts in partnership with individual franchise leaders in areas impacted, Frost says. Last week, KW Cares brought a tractor trailer truck carrying relief supplies to Atlanta to help respond to any evolving needs of agents and their families. The truck will remain in Atlanta over the short-term to provide quicker response to needs during the remainder of hurricane season, which officially doesn’t end until Nov. 30. KW Cares is funded through Keller Williams’ associates, who donate a portion of their commissions.