Driving Homelessness Away

May 12, 2020

- By Sabrina Lapointe

If you see a new license plate around Medway that says, ‘Welcome Home’ you will see that the proud owner of that car is President of Patriot Real Estate, Paul Yorkis. What you won’t see are the blood sweat and tears it took to bring that vanity plate to life.

The Idea

It was at the National Association of REALTORS® midyear meeting several years ago when Yorkis saw a license plate with the REALTOR® ‘R’ on it. He then asked around to find out that the plate was a fundraiser. His next step was to dig up information on the process of charity plates in Massachusetts.

Yorkis collaborated with people like the broker/owner of The North Shore Realty Group, Frank Bertolino. Bertolino became a member of the Charitable Foundation around 2015 and immediately began working with Yorkis visiting associations, attending Board of Directors meetings, attending trade shows encouraging members to purchase license plates.

“We all worked diligently. We also sold bracelets and pins while chasing commitments for plates,” said Bertolino.

Once his homework was done and he had enough information, he presented the idea to the MAR Charitable Foundation Board of Trustees explaining that it would serve as a sustainable source of income for the foundation.

At a May 18, 2011 Board of Directors meeting, it was moved, seconded, and voted to develop the Charitable Foundation’s REALTOR® Vanity License Plate Fundraiser.

Yorkis and other REALTORS® were given permission to fully explore the idea and ran with it.

Meeting with Representatives

“The late Steve Ryan, MAR Counsel and Director of Government Affairs [at the time] and I met with representatives of the Registry of Motor Vehicles to discuss the idea and how the program would really work.”

They learned that it was a lengthy process and that they weren’t alone. Several other organizations were trying to establish charity plates. The biggest roadblock they faced was the minimum resale requirement of 1,500 plates.

“I thought since MAR had at the time, about 23,000 members we should be able to sell 1,500 plates pretty quickly. Boy, was I mistaken. People in Massachusetts love their license plates and are very hesitant to give up a plate they have had for a long time. Some REALTORS® have commercial plates and since a charity plate cannot also be a commercial plate, we lost that group of potential buyers. We had a good initial response but getting past 500 applications was a real challenge,” said Yorkis.

Realizing that they would not meet the required number of 1,500 plates as quickly as they would like, Yorkis met with State Representative Jeff Roy, his State Representative, and State Senator Karen Spilka (now President of the Senate). They eventually came to the agreement of introducing legislation to lower the required number of plates to 500. Yorkis and Ryan then met with members of the House and Senate Transportation Committees, RMV officials where they came to the 750 plate compromise.

“Unfortunately, the bill did not get out of the committee, so Senator Spilka who was chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee added the provision to a state budget bill and the budget bill passed with the provision and it was signed into law by the governor,” said Yorkis.

Applications Reach the RMV

Fast forward to November 2019 and there were approximately 800 applications and checks sitting at the RMV. Two months later, after dealing with issues with the application forms, the RMV was finally able to process and verify each application. The next step was for the RMV to order the materials for the plates to be manufactured. Delaying the process even further, the ‘Welcome Home’ went to the end of the production line, as other charity plates were being made first.

Finally, the manufacturing was complete and needed to be distributed to each full-service RMV office ready for their long-awaited pickup. 875 letters now needed to be prepared and mailed out to each individual who ordered a plate.

RMV regulations required that the Charitable Foundation post a bond with the RMV to guarantee that 3,000 plates be purchased. Some REALTORS® like Yorkis himself are getting creative in their efforts to increase the number of plates. Yorkis is offering ‘Welcome Home’ plates as closing gifts which he shares have been very well-received.

Who it Benefits

The Charitable Foundation provides funding for housing, homelessness, hunger, and disaster relief in Massachusetts. Purchasing a ‘Welcome Home’ plate is just one of the many ways to get involved and make a difference in the life of someone in need of help.

REALTORS® and members of the general public alike who have an interest in helping the less fortunate can purchase a plate for the small price of an extra $40 paid every two years. Their contributions will benefit Massachusetts charities located all over the state provide services for homeless individuals, veterans, hungry families among other deserving people.

To apply for a plate, visit your nearest full-service RMV, after obtaining registration and title application from your current insurance carrier. Bring both your form from your insurance carrier and your current registration with you when you apply in person. The plate typically becomes available in five to ten business days and you will receive a letter with instructions to pick up the plate. Coming around July 2020, folks will be able to apply online.

“I cannot speak for Paul but I am sure he feels just as strong as I do. We would do it again,” said Bertolino.

This could not have been possible without help from companies like MLS Pin, Wells Fargo, and Landy Insurance who all made contributions to the foundation.

“It took a long time as there were many steps but with the support of many REALTORS®, members of the general public, RMV staff, individuals, and organizations that donated funds for plates so they could be given away, we reached the goal. I was honored to be given plate number 1 by the foundation trustees and for that act of kindness I will be forever grateful,” Yorkis said.