Relief Update: REALTOR® Gets Second Chance

Outpouring of generosity leads Gulf Coast residents back from brink.

November 1, 2005

Far from home and poised between hope and despair, Wonda Pearson landed on the side of hope.

Thanks to a chance meeting with a real estate investor in the lobby of the hotel she’d been staying at since she fled her Hurricane Katrina–damaged home in Biloxi, Miss., the broker-owner of Realty Plus secured a place to hang her license—with a real estate broker in Destin, Fla.

The investor had just closed on the purchase of a fractional share in a new hotel-condo. After hearing Pearson’s plight, he urged her to call the broker in the deal. She did, and the broker insisted Pearson affiliate with her for as long as she needed to get back on her feet.

“The broker couldn’t have been more generous,” says Pearson, a sole practitioner who was feeling adrift with no inventory to sell and few resources to fall back on. “We had only spoken on the phone, yet she welcomed me with open arms.” In a flash, the prospect of bankruptcy seemed less likely than it had only a day before.

With the livelihood of an estimated 9,000 real estate practitioners at risk, thousands of REALTORS® have stepped up to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. By early October some 11,000 REALTORS® and others had contributed more than $4.7 million, including $1.1 million from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation.

Many were also finding housing for displaced Gulf Coast residents, collecting and distributing goods, and manning food banks. Others, like real estate technology company a la mode inc. of Oklahoma City, were matching real estate professionals with jobs; a la mode made positions available in its technology support, sales, and marketing areas and was encouraging its clients to employ Katrina victims, too. “We’re not trying to make headlines as do-gooders,” says Dave Biggers, a la mode founder and chairman. “These are our customers and clients. We’re trying to help them at a time when their livelihoods are at real risk.” The company has donated $150,000 to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation and matched more than $250,000 in American Red Cross donations from its employees.

REALTORS® have also given generously to the American Red Cross and other national charities, and have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars directly to the relief funds set up by the Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi Association of REALTORS®. Total contributions from REALTOR® family and friends stood at more than $12 million just three weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

Yet the need remains tremendous. “We’re going to run out of money before we run out of applications,” says Angela Cain, CEO of the Mississippi Association of REALTORS®. By mid-September, the association had received 4,000 applications for help and provided aid to almost 1,000 families. Here’s how you can help:


Visit the Hurricane Katrina Relief page to access dozens of articles on NAR's efforts, and additional resources.

Housing resources

If you have housing to offer displaced households or are trying to match available units to families, go to, a nationwide information exchange developed by REALTORS® in Louisiana with help from NAR, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Monetary donations

Online: Visit NAR’s secure e-commerce site,
By mail: Make checks payable to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation and send contributions to REALTORS® Relief Foundation, Attn: NAR Finance Division, 430 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611-4087.

All contributions are tax deductible, and 100 percent goes to relief efforts. NAR absorbs all administrative costs.

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