Volunteering Works Winners Get Boost for Charity Work

August 1, 2010

For someone who’s new to the real estate business, there’s nothing quite as valuable as the wisdom of an experienced mentor. The same holds true in the nonprofit world. That’s why REALTOR® Magazine and the Good Neighbor Society last year launched a mentoring program called Volunteering Works.

Through the program, five REALTORS® who want to expand their charitable work are given a $1,000 grant to support their volunteer efforts and are matched with a past Good Neighbor honoree who will serve as their mentor. Volunteering Works is funded by The Stuart & Jill Siegel Charitable Foundation.

One of last year’s participants, Ellen Kiss, of Kiss Properties in Del Mar, Calif., says the experience gave her “incredible recognition and credibility throughout the community.” Kiss used the program to expand her organization, Adopt-A-Classroom, which helps fulfill classroom needs for a poverty-stricken elementary school in South East San Diego. Her mentor, 2001 Good Neighbor Winner Craig Conant of Elsberry Realty in Warrensburg, Mo., helped her develop creative fundraisers like selling a cookbook and holding a casino night. He also suggested that she ask a local college to create her charity Web site for free. 

 This year, five new grant recipients will benefit from the guidance of accomplished volunteer leaders who also know what it’s like to juggle busy careers in real estate.

Volunteering Works: 2010 Recipients

Cynthia M. Dwyer, CRS®, SRES, of Weichert, REALTORS®, in Vienna, Va., provides clothing to families who are visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Many of the soldiers’ spouses rush to Walter Reed with only an overnight bag, only to find out they’ll be spending months there. Dwyer arranges clothing distributions at hotels. Her mentor is 2002 Good Neighbor Award winner Cynthia Shafer, Lahaina Realty Inc., Ft. Myers Beach, Fla., founder of Beds for Kidz (part of Voices of Kids of Southwest Florida).

Leslie Heath, of Century 21 Service Realty Inc., in Paducah, Ky., started the Oscar Cross Legacy Committee to restore a historic home and turn it into an after-school homework and meal center for children in the community. The home had belonged to the late Oscar Cross, a local civic leader. Heath’s mentor is 2009 Good Neighbor Award winner Regina Ragon, Prudential Realty Center, Flintstone, Ga., founder of Latin American Community Development. Heath will seek guidance on how to network with local businesses.

Joyce R. Long, of Prudential Shimmering Sands Realty in Panama City Beach, Fla., found Acton Up With Downs Inc. to increase awareness and acceptance of people with Down syndrome. The group holds support groups for caregivers and sends “New Parent Packets” to doctor’s offices and clinics. Long’s mentor is 2001 Good Neighbor Award honorable mention Claudette Bruck, CCIM, of Multiple Choice Realty Investments in Tamarac, Fla. Bruck, who works with Broward Partnership for the Homeless, will share knowledge of recruiting community leaders.

Sarah J. Sorenson, GRI, of Whale’s Tail Realty Inc. in Kahului, Hawaii, created Wishing Well … for Maui Students to assemble wish lists for 32 budget-crunched public schools in Maui and find individual and corporate donors who can make those wishes come true. Her mentor is 2008 Good Neighbor Award honorable mention Victor Kee, ABR®, CRB, of Pete Anderson Realty Inc. in Astoria, Ore., for his work with Sunday Supper and Sunday Meals on Wheels. Sorenson wants to learn how to communicate better with school administrators.

Donna Whiskeman, of RE/MAX Cimarron Realty LLC in Ridgway, Colo., founded a group called Neighbor to Neighbor in 2006 to serve seniors and adults who are homebound or disabled. In her rural county, it’s not easy for seniors to get to doctor appointments or access other services. She and her volunteers deliver meals, take seniors shopping, and provide handyman services. Her mentor is 2003 Good Neighbor Award honorable mention Silvia S. Rodriguez, CIPS, GRI, with Silvia International Realty in Rockville, Md., and a volunteer leader with Centro Catolico Hispano.

Sara Geimer is the manager of REALTOR® Magazine's Good Neighbor Awards and a former senior editor with the magazine.

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