10 REALTORS® You Should Want to Emulate
How this year’s finalists for NAR’s Good Neighbor Awards have accomplished extraordinary feats to improve their communities through volunteerism.
September 1, 2022
Ten REALTORS® who have gone the extra mile to support the most vulnerable in their communities, from creating a grocery store-style food pantry to innovative affordable housing units, have been named finalists for the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2022 Good Neighbor Awards. Now in its 23rd year, the Good Neighbor Awards program recognizes REALTOR® volunteers who donate time, money and passion to enrich others’ lives.
Five winners will receive a $10,000 grant and national media exposure for their charity, including a feature in the fall issue of REALTOR® Magazine. The winners also will be honored in Orlando, Fla., this November during NAR NXT, The REALTOR® Experience. Five honorable mentions will receive $2,500 grants.
“This year’s Good Neighbor finalists have gone above and beyond to help build stronger communities and improve the lives of people across this country,” says NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith. “Their determination and selfless commitment embody everything that we strive for as REALTORS® and compassionate members of our community. I’m proud of this group for devoting hundreds of hours of their personal time to these important causes.”
Vote for Your Favorite Cause
Beginning Thursday, the public can vote for their favorite of the 10 Good Neighbor finalists. The three with the most votes will be recognized as Web Choice Favorites. The winner will take home $2,500 while the second and third runners-up each will receive $1,250. The funding is provided by Good Neighbor Awards sponsor realtor.com®. Cast your vote now through Oct 3. The Good Neighbor winners and Web Choice Favorites will be announced on Oct. 6.
Meet the 2022 Good Neighbor Awards finalists:
Keller Williams Realty
In 2020, Jennifer Barnes thought she would feed people for just a few weeks until the COVID-19–induced shutdowns ended. That experience opened her eyes to an underlying vulnerability in her affluent Atlanta-area neighborhood that extended well beyond food. The nonprofit she founded, Solidarity Sandy Springs, inspires more than 2,600 volunteers to provide wide-ranging community services for thousands of families, including free eye exams and glasses, flu vaccines, job fairs, back-to-school backpacks, and more. Barnes has also distributed nearly one million pounds of food to about 46,000 shoppers.
Kansas City, Mo.
Dennis Curtin founded Mimi’s Pantry to offer a more positive food pantry experience to people in need. The state-of-the-art, 6,000-square-foot facility welcomes shoppers to browse the aisles and choose their food, just as they would in a grocery store. The nonprofit invested in commercial refrigeration equipment and offers fresh meat, produce and milk. It also has a play area and library for kids and is building a greenhouse and an orchard of fruit trees and berry bushes this fall. In three years, it has served 50,000 individuals.
Emerald Isle Properties
As the Hawaiian island of Kauai may at any time have only a handful of homes for sale under $1 million, Permanently Affordable Living (PAL) Kaua'i founder Jim Edmonds partners with nonprofits to build and convert affordable housing for service and farm workers within walking distance to their workplaces. Edmonds navigates the complex challenges of poor infrastructure and resource scarcity through innovative, cost-saving solutions like solar energy, edible landscaping, shared electric vehicles and shared bicycles.
Heather Griesser LaPierre
RE/MAX Preferred Realty
Newtown Square, Pa.
To address food insecurity in her neighborhood and around the world, Heather Griesser LaPierre founded Kids Against Hunger Philadelphia. She rallies hundreds of volunteers each month to pack nutritious, ready-to-make pasta- and rice-based meals, involving local entities like churches, scout troops and police officers. In 2021, she decided to double production to 350,000 meals a month in order to ensure children who depended on school lunches were fed. This effort was even more impressive considering COVID-19 restrictions had forced her to manage with a fraction of the normal volunteer force.
Tamara “Tami” Hicks
Century 21 Signature Real Estate
As a REALTOR®, Tami Hicks would see sellers throw out perfectly good furniture that they didn't need because they didn't know what to do with it. Hicks gathered a few friends and co-founded Overflow Thrift Store, a nonprofit that recycles and resells home furnishings and clothing. Now boasting two locations, the thrift stores’ proceeds are distributed monthly to 10 nonprofit organizations. It also partners with eight additional community agencies to provide clients with free shopping vouchers for furniture and housewares. Since 2014, Overflow Thrift Store has resold more than 1 million items, recycled 325 tons of clothing that otherwise may have gone into landfills and donated $512,000 to nonprofit organizations.
Coldwell Banker Woodland Schmidt
As a foster parent herself, Lisa Hoeve understands the stressful circumstances that arise when a child is placed in a new home, often with strangers, on short notice and carrying none of their own belongings. Hoeve created Hope Pkgs to ease the transition for the children and to support the foster parents striving to ensure these children are as comfortable as possible. She works through child service agencies in Michigan to provide “First Night Bags” with gender- and age-appropriate new pajamas, socks, underwear, blankets, toiletries and stuffed animals. Since 2015, she has served more than 4,200 children.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®, and the Trident Group
Most of us don't know what it feels like to sleep on the streets in the winter, but Debbie McCabe does. Each year, she leads a team of people who voluntarily sleep in cardboard boxes to raise money to help youth experiencing homelessness. For more than 10 years, McCabe has been a volunteer leader for the 76-bed Covenant House Pennsylvania. The transitional housing and services it provides build a bridge to hope for young people overcoming homelessness and who have been a victim of human trafficking. McCabe helped the facility safely keep its doors open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the height of the pandemic.
Debbie Miller had been a devoted volunteer for KidsPACK for many years, helping provide weekend food to kids who might not otherwise have had enough to eat. When COVID-19 hit and demand spiked, the organization found that vendors could no longer supply the bulk food it needed. As inventory dwindled, Miller took to social media, starting a Facebook page and convincing hundreds of new people to donate Chef Boyardee provisions using Amazon. The organization was able to support 140 new children from this effort alone. Today, it feeds 3,000 kids from 80 area schools on weekends.
Long & Foster Real Estate
Kathy Opperman knows a little support can make all the difference when managing grief or loss. She founded Pillars of Light and Love, which offers a multitude of programs and support groups including grief support, help with anxiety, healthy coping skills training, anti-bullying and self-confidence building, and several youth empowerment programs. They have offered over 800 free workshops and support groups. Their mission is to build confidence, self-esteem and resilience so adults and youth can overcome the stresses of life.
Diamond Life Real Estate
Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
For 26 years, MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation founder Mal Washington has been breaking the cycle of poverty through a vibrant after-school mentoring program. Originally rooted in his beloved sport of tennis, MWYF now serves 500 kids annually through a comprehensive youth development program of academic tutoring, leadership skills, financial training and fitness. He is proud of the 100% high school graduation rate within the program, as the surrounding neighborhood’s dropout rate is 20%.
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Updated: September 22, 2022