By Michele Lerner
While most everyone sympathizes with sleep-deprived new parents, imagine being unable to sleep through the night for more than 30 years. A family getting support from Friendship House in Norwell has two adult children who are developmentally disabled and require assistance on a nightly basis. As Lauren Payne, executive director of Friendship House, puts it, “They need a weekend off.”
A grant from the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® Charitable Foundation and support from the Plymouth and South Shore Association of REALTORS® (PASS) has helped Friendship House build a respite care facility that provides a little bit of independent living for developmentally disabled people and an evening off for their caregivers.
Paul Yorkis of Medway, chairperson of the MAR Charitable Foundation, is not surprised that REALTORS® in every part of Massachusetts are actively volunteering their time and money in their communities. “Most REALTORS® I know have really big hearts,” says Yorkis. “They participate in every opportunity to support community groups that help people survive difficulties and gain dignity.”
Yorkis says the goal of the Charitable Foundation this year has been to develop a funding mechanism that could provide a consistent level of financial support in perpetuity. Since the Foundation started in 1992, more than $250,000 has been granted to non-profits in Massachusetts that provide affordable housing, home buyer counseling, shelter, and emergency care.
“We want to have the money available to help homeless people, kids, senior citizens, people who are hungry, and people who are facing trouble from a natural disaster,” says Yorkis.
Key Fundraising Initiative
This year, the Charitable Foundation launched the Welcome Home License Plate fundraiser. Each license plate costs $40 and will provide funds for the Charitable Foundation. Although before the license plate is fully available and can start raising money, MAR needs 1,500 paid reservations for the plates.
“As soon as we have 1,500 orders, the plates can be manufactured and will be available to the general public on the RMV website,” says Yorkis. “Our goal is to have 1,500 orders by December.”
Yorkis says that once 1,500 license plates have been ordered, $36,000 will be available to the Charitable Foundation for grants. When the plates are renewed in two years, the Foundation will have $60,000. If 3,000 license plates are ordered, $120,000 would be available for grants within two years. The license plate can be ordered on marealtor.com.
“We can do a lot of good work with that amount of money,” Yorkis says.
Among the many causes that have captured the hearts of Massachusetts REALTORS®, the devastating tornadoes of last June were particularly poignant.
When a tornado wiped out at least half of the town of Monson, associate broker Karen King, with RE/MAX Prestige in Wilbraham, jumped in immediately to help local residents. Her efforts to coordinate the continuing needs of tornado victims have consumed her time ever since.
“The infrastructure of the entire town was wiped out, including the only grocery store, the fire station, the town hall, and athletic fields,” says King. “We received truckloads of food and supplies from the Children’s Fund within the first two weeks after the tornado, which was a huge help.”
Steve Levine, a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Prestige in Northboro, board member of MAR’s Charitable Foundation, and co-founder and board member of the Children’s Fund, says that the Foundation’s available cash provided an early immediate response to the tornado.
“Within 24 hours of the tornado we hand-carried food and other supplies like diapers from the Children’s Fund to areas that had been devastated,” says Levine. “We asked local REALTORS® to give aid and contacted REALTORS® in other states, too. At least $20,000 in donations was raised quickly, and we brought things like baby food, boots, blankets, and Tupperware containers that people could use as they sifted through the rubble of their homes.”
Ben Scranton, executive officer of the REALTORS® Association of Pioneer Valley, says MAR, the National Association of REALTORS®, individual REATORS®, real estate brokerages, and affiliated companies raised over $50,000 for the immediate and future needs of tornado victims.
More than 100 homes were destroyed in Monson, and King helped many of the families find places to stay by asking people to take their homes off the market to rent them to victims. She has had more than a dozen people stay in her home and has coordinated relief efforts with FEMA and other organizations.
“The important thing about the Charitable Foundation is that we have the ability to fund long-term charitable contracts and review grant applications, but we also have the ability to respond to disaster by having cash on hand,” says Levine.
A traditional charitable enterprise for many REALTORS® is Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for low-income families. At Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod (HHCC) in Yarmouthport, Lynette Helms of North Falmouth is vice president of the Board of Directors and serves on the board of the MAR Foundation. Since 2004, HHCC has received more than $10,000 in grants from the Cape Cod & Islands Association and MAR.