The Drive to Serve
Meet REALTORS® whose passion for helping others transcends a pandemic.
Working to meet the needs of the community’s most vulnerable. Constant fundraising. Keeping volunteers motivated. Under the best of circumstances, running a nonprofit is demanding. Over the past 18 months, closures and restrictions, canceled fundraising events, and the need to remain socially distanced to minimize the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus added to the pressure for nonprofits.
Enter the 2021 Good Neighbor Award winners—volunteer leaders who have moved mountains throughout the pandemic to help people in need. Whether they were hungry, homeless, poor, in need of a mentor, dealing with abuse, or struggling to recover from natural disaster, it’s REALTORS® who came to their aid. You’ll be inspired by the Good Neighbors’ amazing stories of service.
Read their full profiles at nar.realtor/gna.
Brent Gieske: Rebuilding Lives, Shaping Leaders
Brent Gieseke supports the growing number of refugees who settle in Kansas City, Mo., many of whom fled war-torn African countries and spent years living in refugee camps. He helps the nonprofit purchase neglected urban homes, then leads the extensive renovation projects to turn them into “Blessing Houses.” Since he’s been involved, Agape Pamoja has grown from four residential homes to 23, with five more currently being remodeled. But perhaps his most important contribution is not about the buildings; it’s about the teen refugees, whom he mentors in construction and life skills. While “Papa Brent” is teaching the young people about home repair and maintenance, he’s also building future leaders.
Sydney Ealy: Girl Power
Sydney Ealy launched a nonprofit mentoring program for at-risk, low- income girls ages 11 to 17. Workshops focus on topics such as financial literacy, career exposure, culinary skills, and networking. Adult mentors help with schoolwork, personal challenges, and shared activities. Altogether 1,500 girls, and a few moms, have participated in TWST activities, and 100 have worked one-on-one with mentors. Many TWST4Girls participants have graduated from high school and entered college with dreams of becoming paleontologists, lawyers, and veterinary technicians, among other careers. Ealy wants the girls to have it easier than she did. “Sydney’s deep empathy and understanding for the girls we serve and the challenges they face inform our focus,” says volunteer chief operating officer Annie Mbride Rose, a project adviser at ExxonMobil. “She wants the girls to be confident about who they are without letting outside influences define them.”
Kibe Lucas: Where Children Are Heard So They Can Heal
She was 11 years old. She was brought to The Children’s Place after a relative had sexually abused her. The team interviewed her and conducted an exam, the case was prosecuted, and the relative went to jail. A year later, the same girl called the center herself. “I need help,” she said, hiding in her closet. “It’s happening again—with a different relative.” The difficult work of helping children escape abuse and neglect takes vision, leadership, community support, and funding. Luckily, there’s Kibe Lucas. Using his real estate experience and network, he has helped the nonprofit expand to a larger facility, bring the needed experts together in one place, and make the experience less grueling for the children. Lucas, a board member for 20 years, has raised half a million dollars, recruited hundreds of volunteers, and helped the well-being of more 4,000 children.
Christina Sauger: Everyone's Invited
Christina Sauger dreamed of bringing people together through food, so she founded the nonprofit Harbor Dish, which provides healthy meals and companionship to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. The mobile program hosts large-scale community dinners each week using a pay-what-you-can model. Some people pay the suggested donation amount, some don’t, and some pay for meals for those who can’t afford it. Diners are invited to a communal table, which is where Sauger is likely to be. In addition, a retinue of volunteers, including professional chefs, cook and deliver meals to residential facilities for foster children and domestic violence survivors and to homes of seniors and shut-ins—a program that multiplied exponentially during the pandemic.
Bob Bell: Eliminating Weekend Hunger
When Bob Bell learned how many children in his community didn’t have enough to eat, he got to work. He developed a system that now delivers food every Friday to more than 10,000 students in 72 schools, helping to cover the weekends when children can be the most vulnerable to food insecurity. This enormous undertaking is possible with the help of 350 volunteers who meet every Friday at dawn—outdoors, no matter the weather—to pack and deliver “PowerSacks” of food. The volunteers have never missed a Friday, even during the pandemic when schools were closed.
From hundreds of nominees, five REALTORS® received Honorable Mentions for their outstanding philanthropic work. Their causes will receive $2,500 grants. Read about them below.
Dawn Adams has spent 10 years rescuing and rehabilitating victims of human trafficking, both in the U.S. and internationally. As a board member with the Abolish Slavery Coalition (AbolishSlavery.org), she organizes multiagency task forces that help locate people who’ve been kidnapped. After rescue, she guides them to the help they need to build a new life.
Sharon Chambers-Gordon founded Raising Girls to help prevent “period poverty” among low-income tweens and teens. She and her volunteer team collect and donate men- strual and hygiene products for girls who can’t afford them and who might otherwise skip school, activities, and sports.
Chris Cockerham uses his real estate expertise to prevent homelessness. He has raised $1.2 million, largely from REALTORS® in his local area, to help New Hope for Families provide temporary housing and child care. He also helped the shelter find a new permanent location that doubled its capacity.
Denny Moore & Linda Ellsworth-Moore
Since 2004, Denny Moore and Linda Ellsworth-Moore have volunteered with Child and Family Charities, a nonprofit that supports children in need. The couple has raised $345,000 and collects donations of bikes, school supplies, clothing, and holiday gifts, with a special emphasis on bikes for foster children.
After a Category 3 derecho in August 2020 damaged 90% of the structures in his hometown, Raymond Siddell mobilized the emergency response, collecting food and water and loaning power tools. He discovered an underlying food insecurity and created what is now Together We Achieve, a permanent food pantry that has distributed 1.2 million pounds of food.
Web Choice Favorites
Voters selected their favorite of the 10 Good Neighbor Award finalists, with the most popular crowned as this year’s “Web Choice Favorites.”
Blue-Ribbon Judges: NAR President-elect Leslie Rouda Smith, NAR Treasurer Nancy Lane, NAR Past President Martin Edwards Jr. (honorary judge), NAR Past President Ron Phipps, NAR Member Communications Chair Dale Chumbley, NAR Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Victoria Gillespie, Chase Home Mortgage Managing Director, Home Lending Field Sales, Patricia Maguire-Feltch, Move.com/realtor.com® Chief Marketing Officer Mickey Neuberger
Updated: May 16, 2022