7801 Deercreek Club Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32256

‘Working to put a roof over their heads’

‘Working to put a roof over their heads’

NEFAR assists disaster victims with $250,000 donation to REALTORS® Relief Fund


Police, firefighters, or paramedics usually top the list of first responders called when disaster strikes. Thanks to the generosity of the real estate community – including members of the Northeast Florida Association of REALTORS® (NEFAR) local REALTORS® can be added to the list of first responders. 

Over the past two decades, the REALTORS® Relief Foundation (RRF) has had a major role in helping victims of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires keep a roof over their heads in the wake of catastrophe. This year, in honor of the foundation’s 20th anniversary, NEFAR has donated $250,000 to the REALTOR Relief Fund’s campaign to ensure the fund will have a sustainable reserve and be ready to provide housing-related assistance at a moment’s notice. 

“REALTORS® understand the strength of community, and they realize the enormous benefit of people being able to quickly repair or rebuild what they have lost,” said Cathy Whatley, a NEFAR member who served as First Vice President of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) in 2001 when RRF was founded.  

“In order to be an early responder, it is necessary to have funds on hand so financial assistance can immediately be sent to individuals in areas hit hard by a disaster. This generous contribution by the Northeast Florida Association of REALTORS® will help ensure the REALTORS® Relief Foundation can continue to be positioned to quickly respond should a disaster strike. While we hope that our First Coast area is spared from needing assistance, RRF will be there to help us if a disaster should occur, because ‘That’s Who We R,’” Whatley continued, referring to NAR’s national campaign slogan that helps consumers understand that REALTORS® are real estate experts in their local communities, who abide by a Code of Ethics and fight for real estate dreams and property rights. 

Established in September 2001, the day after 9/11, RRF was created as a REALTOR®-driven response to the terrorist attacks in New York City. Since its inception, the fund has distributed more than $33 million to more than 17,000 families in calamity-afflicted communities. 

“The REALTORS® Relief Foundation was initially set up to financially assist families who lost a loved one from the tragic events on September 11, 2001,” Whatley explained. “REALTORS® felt the best way to help those families was to provide each of them with the money they needed to cover three months of their rent or mortgage payments so the families wouldn’t have to worry about their housing while they dealt with the shock of losing a loved one. Over $8 million was raised and distributed to hundreds of families who received those payments within a short period of time. REALTOR® members personally delivered the checks and many of the family members tearfully shared that the check they were being handed was the first money they had received from any source, including other charitable agencies. In a very significant and meaningful way, REALTORS® were ‘first responders’ to those who needed our help,” she said. 

The ultimate goal of the REALTORS® Relief Foundation is to never say ‘no’ to those in need during a time of disaster, said Whatley, who has been named an honorary chair of the REALTORS® Relief Foundation’s 20th Anniversary Campaign.  In receiving a grant from RRF, disaster victims are not bogged down by bureaucracy or paperwork. Since the National Association of Realtors® covers all administrative costs, 100 percent of donations to the fund go directly toward disaster-impacted families. 

In recent years, RRF money has assisted wildfire victims in Washington State, flood casualties in North Dakota, and those who suffered the wrath of Hurricanes Sandy, Irene, and Lee, as well as tornado-terrorized residents in Alabama and Missouri. In all, members of the national, state, and local REALTOR® associations have aided community members in 39 states and U.S. territories through more than 80 natural disasters. 

“We are so pleased to be able to make this contribution to the REALTORS® Relief Fund, which will help our REALTOR® family members and others in the community in their time of need and assist the funding source to become a perpetual fund,” said NEFAR President Missi Howell, of the $250,000 donation. 

Proud to support RRF’s important work, William Glenn East, CEO of NEFAR, said his organization’s leadership thought it was crucial to make a sizeable donation in honor of the foundation’s 20th anniversary. Although many individual NEFAR real estate professionals had personally donated to the fund, NEFAR as an organization had not made a formal contribution to RRF over the past 20 years, he said. 

“I am really proud of the NEFAR leadership for stepping up to assist families in their time of need and for being a leader in establishing a permanent funding vehicle to ensure the RRF remains a viable tool in the future,” said East, who is the top administrator of the 10,000-member trade association in Northeast Florida. “As a five-year member and former chair of the Florida Realtors® Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), I personally witnessed the RRF funds assisting many of our families in the Florida panhandle after Hurricane Michael, along with the application and distribution support from the Florida Realtors® DRF. This was truly REALTOR® teamwork at is best, and I am very proud of our REALTOR® family throughout this great country.”