7801 Deercreek Club Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32256
Members of the Northeast Florida Association of REALTORS® (NEFAR) are known for community service so it was only natural that realMLS CEO Nicole Jensen looked for guidance from the chairmen of NEFAR’s AREA Councils when selecting local nonprofits to support at the end of 2021.
Unusual circumstances were allowing realMLS, a wholly owned subsidiary of NEFAR, to make a few generous, one-time corporate donations to charitable organizations near and dear to the real estate industry at the end of the year. Because NEFAR’s Councils represent REALTORS® from various areas of Northeast Florida, Jensen asked for input from the heads of NEFAR’s Councils in deciding which worthy nonprofit organizations realMLS might support. The chairmen of three Councils – Putnam, Northside, and Southwest – responded to Jensen’s query, and checks totaling $36,000 were disbursed among seven nonprofit organizations at their behest.
“Our company, realMLS, had a one-time opportunity to donate to charitable organizations at the end of last year,” said Jensen. “Partnering with NEFAR’s Area Councils was the perfect way to ensure that the charitable donations were dispersed throughout the realMLS marketplace.”
In December of last year, NEFAR sponsored a Hunger Fight Pack-a-Thon event where members packed approximately 75,000 meals for hungry families and children in the Northeast Florida region. The nonprofit Feed the Need of Putnam County received approximately 20,000 of the meals from Hunger Fight as well as a $6,000 check from realMLS that was meant to assist the nonprofit in purchasing more food.
In its monthly newsletter, Feed the Need gave a big shout out to NEFAR’s Putnam Council Chairperson Leota Wilkinson as well as longtime NEFAR member Charles “Ben” Bates Jr., broker/owner of Coldwell Banker Ben Bates Inc. in Palatka for their role in facilitating the donations. Feed the Need also praised NEFAR staff member Savannah Williams, who is the membership specialist working in NEFAR’s St. John’s and Putnam County satellite offices and NEFAR CEO William Glenn East for their support of their charity’s work.
Also receiving a $6,000 realMLS donation was Bread of Life, a Putnam County food pantry and soup kitchen. The money will assist in providing hot meals daily in the region.
“Putnam County is considered a fiscally constrained county and is one of the poorest counties in the state,” explained Wilkinson in an email. As such, we see food insecurity as a huge obstacle to some in our community. We, as REALTORS®, try to work with these agencies to help those who are vulnerable to food insecurity. We greatly appreciate any assistance that is given to these two worthy organizations in Putnam County.”
It was a “nice surprise” for the Northside Council to be included in the selection of worthy local nonprofits, said 2021 2021 Northside Council Chairman Mick Dolan, and it seemed completely appropriate that his picks, Wounded Warrior Project, and the Jacksonville chapter of Best Buddies International, be included in the mix.
Headquartered in Jacksonville, Wounded Warrior Project is a not-for-profit veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, services and events for wounded veterans of the military actions following?September 11, 2001. Meanwhile, Best Buddies is a charitable organization that utilizes volunteers in creating one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for children and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I’ve been a big proponent of the military in general, and supporting Wounded Warriors seemed like a nice heartfelt charity,” said Dolan. “And how could you not be appreciative of Best Buddies? It’s helping children. Wounded Warrior Project is very appropriate for our area because of the heavy military presence in Northeast Florida. We have two massive Navy bases here, Mayport and NAS Jax, and a nuclear submarine base just across the border in Georgia. In a way we have three bases right where we live.
“It is phenomenal that we were able to give $6,000 to each nonprofit,” he continued. “ These two charities must have been very pleased with the Northeast Florida Association of REALTORS®. It was nice to be asked what our thoughts were on who to give the money to. It definitely was a new experience. I appreciated the call.”
Rich Zeisel, chairman of NEFAR’s Southwest Council, was also pleased to have the opportunity to recommend three worthy charities in Clay County for funding. At his recommendation AMI Kids, Quigley House, and Mercy Services each received a check for $4,000.
AMI Kids is founded on the belief that there is potential born into every child and event troubled children have the potential to become great people. For more than 50 years, the nonprofit has empowered more than 150,000 kids across the country, by not only helping them discover their full potential but also guiding them on a path to a positive future.
Quigley House has a goal to educate clients about the toll domestic and sexual violence has on them as individuals to prevent further harm. It strives to teach its clients how a healthy relationship should look and how to spot red flags in relationships so that the cycle of future abuse can be broken.
Meanwhile, Mercy Support Services is a Christ-centered organization that serves the people of Clay County who through circumstances beyond their control are in need of services to help guide them to self-sufficiency through an active network of compassionate people and organizations. Zeisel said he was very familiar with their work because in the past he had served as a member of the organization’s board of directors.
Noting how important it is for REALTORS® to actively give tangible support to nonprofits in the community, Zeisel used the “Tale of the Starfish” to illustrate.
Walking the beach, a young boy noticed the sand was covered with thousands of starfish. Hoping to help the desperate creatures, the boy began picking up starfish and throwing them back in the ocean one at a time. He continued this work for more than 30 minutes even though it appeared to have little bearing on the thousands that still lay on the beach. Soon, an older man walked up to the boy and asked what he was doing. The young lad said that he was saving starfish. The man looked at the covered beach. ‘There are just too many of them,’ he said. ‘You can’t possibly make a difference.’ The boy thought for a moment, bent over, and threw another starfish back into the ocean. ‘I made a difference to that one,’ he replied.
“We can’t change the world, but when we work together, we can effect positive change,” Zeisel said. “These three providers perform a critical service to the Clay County community and have the same heart. By joining with them, REALTORS® can help make the world a better place.”
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