Ideas to Help Your Neighbors Through COVID-19 Pandemic

April 27, 2020

Paul Wyman, like many real estate professionals, is stepping up his efforts to spread kindness in his community during the COVID-19 pandemic. With many hairdressers in his state of Indiana out of work due to a stay-at-home order, Wyman, SRES, principal broker of The Wyman Group in Kokomo, Ind., and a 2019 Good Neighbor, started the #barbershopchallenge on social media. Wyman is asking his followers who perform their own at-home haircuts to send the equivalent retail cost of a professional trim to their preferred hairstylist.

Wyman’s push is one piece of a collective effort in which real estate pros nationwide are providing comfort and assistance to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort has even spread beyond the U.S. Bruce Johnson, a sales associate with RE/MAX of Wasaga Beach in Ontario and a 2019 Good Neighbor, is a major proponent of the “caremongering” movement that started recently in Toronto. The movement encourages the creation of hyperlocal pages on social media to coordinate relief efforts for people affected by COVID-19. For example, people can get access to local resources through #HelpNeeded posts and donate to relief efforts through #HelpOffered posts. “We can’t allow anyone to fall through the cracks in these unprecedented times,” Johnson says. “Now more than ever, we all need to be good neighbors.”

Sara Geimer, manager of the National Association of REALTORS®’ Good Neighbor Awards, says practitioners are always on the front lines of community relief efforts during crises. “After 20 years of recognizing REALTORS® for extraordinary volunteering, we know how giving they are,” Geimer says. “What we are seeing now is how they also react to a national crisis by finding ways to uplift their community and bring hope.”

You can find inspiration to give back to your own community through the myriad examples of how other pros are touching their neighbors in charitable ways.

Support essential workers and local businesses. Priyanka Johri, broker-owner of Woodlands Eco Realty in The Woodlands, Texas, is thanking essential workers by ordering meals from local restaurants each day to send to a hospital, nursing home, or medical facility. “When your country is at war with an invisible enemy, and the warriors you are sending to fight don’t have adequate armor, you feel helpless,” Johri says. “All you can do is to let them know you appreciate them and show them you care.”

health care professionals receiving donated meals

© Priyanka Johri

Brian Loebker, a sales associate with Michael Saunders & Company in Sarasota, Fla., raised $25,000 in one week after he organized the Feed a Healthcare Hero fundraiser to thank medical workers and help local restaurants. Loebker has inspired more than 100 local real estate professionals to deliver meals. “We’ve had restaurant managers bring us to tears with their emotional, heartfelt gratitude,” Loebker says. “The positive response from our community has been overwhelming.”

Brian Loebker holds up promotional sign for relief effort.

© Brian Loebker

Brian Loebker holds up promotional sign for relief effort.

Connect through music. To help cheer up residents at a local assisted living facility she helps run, Johri has been bringing in music therapists to serenade them at their windows. Ilana Minkhoff, a real estate professional with Vanguard Properties in San Francisco, also has been using music through neighborhood sing-alongs. She started a social media group, Quarantine Sing-Along, that has drawn thousands across the globe to tune in for sing-alongs of popular songs.

Random acts of kindness: Jessica Kish, a sales associate with McColly Real Estate in Schererville, Ind., and YPN chair at the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of REALTORS®, sends dinner gift cards to random colleagues, lenders, and clients. “It’s a small gesture, but everybody is in such a funk that even a $25 gift card for pizza changes the dynamic of their evening,” Kish says. “I also always try to buy [the gift cards] from local businesses to help them stay afloat.” Kish also has made it a mission to start her day every morning by scouring websites to order supplies, such as hand sanitizer, that she then delivers to others. “I truly feel like the only way for the world to be better is to put good into it,” Kish says. “It’s not to get good back personally, but because the more happiness in the world, the better the world is for everyone.”

Lead brokerage or association efforts. Brokerages and REALTOR® associations are stepping in to coordinate charity efforts. The Hawaii Association of REALTORS®, for example, has a charitable foundation dedicated to helping feed people who are financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The association donated $50,000 to food banks throughout Hawaii to help meet growing needs. “The COVID-19 pandemic has put additional strain on our community resources, including our most basic need for food,” says Moana Andersen, president of the Hawaii REALTORS® Charitable Foundation.

The Greater Mason City Board of REALTORS® in Iowa asked real estate offices and affiliates to decorate their windows with hearts to show unity as part of the trending #aworldofhearts project. The project aims to inject beauty into communities during this challenging time.

agent decorating their brokerage window

© The Greater Mason City (Iowa) Board of REALTORS®

Target at-risk populations. With most schools canceled for the remainder of the year, children who had depended on schools for food are suddenly facing hunger. REALTORS® have stepped in to help. For example, 2,200 school children in Montgomery County, Md., depend on food donations from school. To help meet the need, 2018 Good Neighbor Jeremy Lichtenstein, a sales associate with RE/MAX Realty Services in Bethesda, Md., and founder of the nonprofit Kids in Need Distributors (KIND), is distributing grocery store gift cards to 2,000 families.

Offer something of your own. Ryan Gable, broker and CEO of StartingPoint Realty in Schaumberg, Ill., wanted to help a nurse who works in the ICU at Loyola Medical Center. The nurse was scared of exposing her family to COVID-19, so Gable offered her his recreational vehicle as temporary living quarters. This allows the nurse to live near her family without worrying about bringing the virus into her permanent home.

Put your skills to good use. Cheryl Eckert Bailey, an associate broker with RE/MAX Territory Foothills in Yuma, Ariz., has devoted countless hours to making masks to help protect staff at local hospitals, assisted living centers, cancer treatment centers, rehab facilities, and detention centers. She has sewed more than 1,000 reusable masks so far. “I am just a person trying to make my world a little better than I found it, which is something we should all be doing every day anyway,” Bailey says.