Beloved Park Was Defaced, Then Revived With NAR Grant

June 26, 2020

graffiti at a park in Bonita Springs

© Bonita Springs-Estero REALTORS®

Real estate pros are finding ways to lead the charge to clean up communities vandalized during recent times of tension and unrest. The National Association of REALTORS® is providing grant money to REALTOR® associations to help them.

On the morning of June 6, residents of Bonita Springs, Fla., awakened to a beloved community park that had been vandalized with graffiti. The park is a popular gathering spot for holidays, outdoor church services, and numerous special events. Messages with profanity or disparaging law enforcement were spray-painted on the bricks and concrete of the park’s band shell and other structures. City leaders were concerned that the graffiti would overshadow an otherwise peaceful protest the day prior that stood for racial justice and equality.

The Bonita Springs-Estero REALTORS®, in Bonita Springs, Fla., stepped in.

Jesse Purdon, a Bonita Springs, Fla., city councilman, and Meighan Harris, CEO of the Bonita Springs-Estero REALTORS®

© Bonita Springs-Estero REALTORS®

Jesse Purdon, a Bonita Springs, Fla., city councilman, and Meighan Harris, CEO of the Bonita Springs-Estero REALTORS®, helped bring REALTORS® and lawmakers together to repair damage to a city park using a new Community Rebuilding Grant from NAR.

Meighan Harris, CEO of the association, had just learned of a new grant that NAR had launched—the 2020 Community Rebuilding Grant. REALTOR® associations are eligible to apply for up to $3,000 to help their communities impacted by vandalism during recent protests. Harris completed the application and quickly was approved for funds. She then worked with local lawmakers to hire a professional crew to have the graffiti removed.

“To see an area that is so beloved by so many vandalized was heartbreaking,” Harris says. “When we found out about the grant money through NAR, we saw it as an opportunity for our REALTORS® to be part of the solution.”

The association also used the opportunity to convey in press releases, social media posts, and news stories that their REALTOR® group stood for equality, fair housing, and inclusion.

The park has since been restored—just in time for an upcoming socially distant Fourth of July celebration for the community’s residents.

Helping Communities Heal

NAR launched the 2020 Community Rebuilding Grant in early June to help support REALTOR®-led efforts to rebuild and restore community spaces impacted by demonstrations for racial justice. So far, eight other REALTOR® association projects have been approved for grants to lead clean up efforts in public places, parks, and plazas.

Love Scrub logo

In Fredericksburg, Va., the Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS® is using its $3,000 in grant money to sponsor a communitywide event it dubbed a “Love Scrub” on June 27. A team of volunteers will clean up downtown areas, like a community park and streets, as well as restore a vandalized police memorial. They expect more than 50 members to participate, clad in REALTOR® shirts, hats, and masks. The association’s logo-wrapped van will also be on display.

group photo of volunteers

© Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS®

“We anticipate this will be a great way for REALTORS® to be visible in the community as helpers and stakeholders committed to moving forward in a productive manner,” says Barbara Castillo, professional director at FAAR.

Indeed, Susie Helm, vice president of state and local services and advocacy operations at NAR, hopes such association activities will inspire others to follow suit. “I hope these grants demonstrate how REALTORS® can be part of the rebuilding community process,” Helm says. “Community is important, maybe more than ever. REALTORS® have an invested interest in their community and can be part of the change.”

Christine Windle and Holly Moskerintz with NAR’s Community Outreach program say the grants are also serving as a way to bring more stakeholders together, such as REALTORS® teaming up with local nonprofits and local officials, to address change in their communities.

As REALTORS®, “our challenge is that we commit to be part of the overall solution, and the Community Rebuilding Grant is a great first step,” Ezekiel “Zeke” Morris, a REALTOR® Party community engagement liaison and owner of EMA Realty & Management in Chicago, notes about the program.

Learn more about the 2020 Community Rebuilding Grants at realtorparty.realtor/community-outreach/community-rebuilding.