Media Contact: Eric Berman - 781-839-5507 - eberman@marealtor.com

Tuned into the Tenor of Their Communities

by Bridget McCrea | Feb 28, 2018
How Massachusetts’ Realtors® Are Doing Their Part To Support The Communities That Support Their Businesses And Lives.

Whether they’re allocating a portion of their commission checks to local charities, rolling up their sleeves to help build homes for people in need, or taking an hour out of the day to sit down and mentor an elementary school student, Realtors® across Massachusetts are proving themselves to be true standouts in their communities. Some give up an hour or two per month of their time, some dedicate themselves to weekly commitments, and others fly to foreign countries to spend weeks volunteering their time and resources to good causes. Regardless of where they stand on that continuum, many MAR members understand the meaning of “giving back” and practice it wholeheartedly and on a continual basis.  

Martine Taylor, executive director for South Shore Habitat for Humanity in East Weymouth says her organization and its constituents benefit from those efforts. “Our local Realtor® association has been instrumental in providing volunteers, raising financial contributions, and building awareness of what we do as an organization,” says Taylor, who sees a “natural affinity” between Habitat and the real estate industry as a whole.

“Realtors® know their respective markets and are out there on the front lines, trying to build their businesses, getting personally involved with those communities, and serving as ambassadors for groups like Habitat,” says Taylor. “They’re not just on the periphery; if anyone knows the tenor of the community, it’s the real estate industry.” 

Someone Call 911!

Go-getters who tend to thrive on challenges and gothe extra mile for their customers, Realtors® tend to have a strong desire and interest in giving back. And while most would rather not put the spotlight on how these efforts turn into business, it’s hard to ignore the fact that people enjoy working with those who think outside of themselves and do what they can to help individuals, communities, and society as a whole.

For Larry Yameen, a Realtor® with Yameen Real Estate in Lawrence, giving back once meant calling on an ambulance for help in a decidedly non-medical emergency. A longtime member and past-president of his local Exchange Club, which focuses on child abuse prevention (among other causes), Yameen had lined up food from a local wholesaler and a kitchen for preparing hundreds of Thanksgiving meals for area families. What he didn’t have was a vehicle to accommodate the large food warmers that kept the meals hot as they were being delivered.

“I called the Red Cross and told them there was an emergency at Bishop’s (the restaurant where the meals were prepared),” Yameen recalls. “They showed up with the sirens and flashing lights on, and came in and said, ‘What’s the emergency?’ ‘We need to deliver this food to the Boys Club (which the Exchange Club is closely associated with),’ I told them.’ We loaded up the ambulance and got it done that way.”   

Yameen, who spends two hours per week at Exchange Club board meetings; pays a quarterly fee for membership; and then volunteers his time for committee assignments and event participation on an as-needed basis, says the satisfaction that comes from helping others far outweighs those time and resource commitments. “You can't get gratitude like this anywhere else,” says Yameen. “It comes back to you tenfold when people in the community start to know who you are, what you’re involved with, and why you're doing it. It definitely opens a lot of doors.”

Stretching His Boundaries

“You have to give back and you can’t always take.” It’s a motto that John Connolly, VP at SUCCESS! Real Estate in Braintree lives by, and it shows in his actions. In addition to leading dozens of running races for charities over the years, he’s organized 13 different charitable fundraisers to support Homes for Our Troops, the American Diabetes Association, the American Leukemia Foundation, and others. “I got into fundraising when I needed to raise money to participate in marathons,” says Connolly, who hosted a “reggae beach party” smack in the middle of winter to raise funding for the race.

Connolly, who spends 40-50 hours planning and organizing each event; networking; and raising funds for the events, took his volunteerism to a new level when another Realtor® threw down the gauntlet and told him that if he raised $100,000, he’d be able to “join” their club. “I was only bringing in $7,000 to $8,000 a year on average at the time,” he recalls. “But during my 13th year of doing it, I hit $100,340. It was a proud moment.”

But it still wasn’t enough for Connolly, who after complaining about a minor problem—and having a friend tell him that he was “pathetic” if that was his biggest issue—connected with the Saint Rock Haiti Foundation, an organization that provides healthcare, educational opportunities, and community outreach programs to the country’s citizens.

After learning of the great need for dental and medical supplies in Haiti, Connolly decided to collect those items from Realtors® and other community members and personally deliver them to Saint Rock on an annual basis. On his most recent trip, Connolly found himself playing dental assistant in a region where electricity is sporadic and public water is nonexistent.

“Their dental chair is a rocking chair that’s tilted backwards with a 5-gallon bucket underneath it,” says Connolly. Every day, roughly 40-50 people line up at the clinic’s door to get teeth extracted and other dental services, but most of them have to deal with the aftercare and pain without the help of pain relievers.

“They really appreciate the Tylenol and Advil,” says Connolly, who typically brings along five or six suitcases filled with dental, medical, and personal hygiene supplies. The fact that the bulk of those supplies are donated by his local real estate community fills Connolly with pride. “I’m only giving up a week’s vacation to do this, but when everyone shows up with bags of goods that they bought at CVS, it’s a great feeling,” he says. “I'm very proud of my fellow Realtors® and how they help me out.

For Them, It’s Personal 

Giving back can get pretty personal, especially if the organization in question once helped the volunteer get back on his or her feet, overcome a life struggle, or go head-to-head with a medical condition. In Dawn Rusin’s case, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America provided a safe place to go and get support when she was a child. “I came from humble beginnings; my parents didn’t have much money,” says Rusin, owner of RE/MAX Right Choice in Fall River. “We lived in public housing, and I saw firsthand how the organization saved a lot of kids from being on the streets and getting into trouble.”

Fast-forward to 2018 and Rusin continues to support the organization by spending an hour a week mentoring a child in the dental-related Smile Program for at-risk kids. She also helps to fill backpacks with school supplies at the start of every school year, participates in the Happy Feet program (for children who need shoes), and solicits donations from her local Rotary Club, where she serves on the board of directors. In addition, all of the agents in her office donate a portion of their commission checks to charities like the Children’s Miracle Network.

“As Realtors®, we want to be known as the people who give back to our communities,” says Rusin, “and that it’s not just about commissions.”   

Growing up in inner-city Boston, Jonathan Keener saw firsthand the challenges that the environment presented for children and adults alike. “Without people giving back to me—like the camp counselor or the mentor—I’m not sure if things would have turned out for me like they did,” admits Keener, broker-owner at Reality Realty Group in Quincy. His foray into volunteerism started early when he began helping special needs children learn how to swim and assisting with a Youth Enrichment Services group that took inner-city kids skiing.

For the last five years, Keener has been actively involved in his local Elk’s Lodge, American Legion, and Neighborhood Club, among others. He supports sober houses for opiate addiction and, through his work with Father Bill’s, MainSpring, and MAR, is helping to address the issue of homelessness in his community. 

“I’m on four different committees right now and each one meets monthly for an hour; people call me a professional volunteer,” he says, laughing. “It does take quite a bit of balance to run a real estate business while giving time and energy to good causes.” Of course, in some cases those extra efforts translate into business wins. “I got a rental listing yesterday from a townhome owner who noticed the fact that I was working with the homeless and with Father Bill’s,” says Keener. “I can’t say that it helped me get the listing, but people do catch that stuff.” 

Getting Involved

To Realtors® who may be looking at their own calendars and wondering how in heck they can squeeze in the time to give back to their local communities and organizations, Rusin says finding a spare hour or two a month can be extremely fulfilling.

“I do my mentoring first thing in the morning and then I go right to work; that way there’s no question as to whether I do it or not,” she says. “It may take a little time out of your day, but once you see the adults or children and need and the problems that they’re dealing with, it really makes you realize that your problems (i.e., a packed schedule) aren’t really as big as you think they are.”

Suzanne Crerar, a Realtor® with Stone House Properties, LLC, in Stockbridge, spends about 15 hours a quarter participating in board meetings, doing fundraising, serving community dinners, and attending events related to Construct, Inc., which provides housing solutions for community members. Most recently, the organization redeveloped an 11-unit apartment building that sat on the market for years and that is now going to be used for transitional housing for homeless men, with the remainder of the land allocated for a cluster development of affordable housing units.Crerar, who also helps a local school district partner third graders with members of the community for lunches and serves as a poll warden during elections, says giving back to the community pays off in many ways. “It’s amazing what a difference it makes when you go out on listing appointments,” she says. “People are really appreciative of how you’re committed to your community and clients are consistently amazed by your level of giving. It’s incredible.”