Agents of Change: ‘Guilty Girls’ feel anything but: ‘We’re making lives better’
Delaware agent Kerry Wendel's Guilty Girls Giving Group turns fashion into philanthropy, providing donations to organizations in need.
Editor's note: Across the country, agents are giving back to their communities and their industry. Here, we shine a light on people creating positive change and inspiring others to look for ways they can make a difference as well.
You can't talk about the Guilty Girls Giving Group without first talking about the name.
"We just sat around the table and tried to think of what was catchy," said co-founder Kerry Wendel, an agent with Monument Sotheby's International Realty in Wilmington, Delaware.
"Guilty of fabulous finds and generous giving. We were just looking for a way to give back."
The group organizes an annual Warehouse Sale, where more than 30 local and out-of-town retailers and vendors sell women's clothing, handbags and gifts to shoppers who buy tickets to attend.
In the decade since the Guilty Girls Giving Group started, the women-run organization has donated $265,000 to various charities focused on women and children.
"It feels good," said Wendel, who became an agent five years ago after a career running a small accessories company, doing commercial lending — and raising children. "We know how to run a show and we always talked about giving back," she said.
It's important to Wendel and the Guilty Girls board to feel passionate about the nonprofits they are supporting. "We really get to know these beneficiaries," Wendel said. "We always make sure we love the cause. It has to be something we're excited about.
"And then when we hand over the check, it feels great."
The first year of the Warehouse Sale, the group gave away $8,000. Each of the last two years, the Guilty Girls Giving Group has given away $40,000.
In addition to ticket sales, money is raised when vendors pay a fee for a booth. Sponsors help with marketing and supplies, and often donate, as well — sometimes directly to the charity.
Wendel has a background in putting on vendor shows, and as an agent, is connected to people in the community. That helps her not only spread the world about the event, but find organizations who could benefit.
"I also think it's just good to have your name associated with something like this," she said.
Last year, the Guilty Girls nonprofit donated to an organization aimed at preventing suicides among college students — an issue exacerbated by the pandemic.
"It just feels necessary," she said. "And it's been great. It's fun, it's social, it's community. It feels like we're making lives better."
Next year, the group will donate proceeds to Kind to Kids, an organization that provides backpacks loaded with clothing and other necessities for children entering the foster system.
"These foster kids, when the cops pick them up from a touchy situation, they have the bare minimum," she said. "These backpacks are filled with everything they need."
In a way, the Warehouse Sale is just what the organizers and participants need. Vendors are happy to sell what they didn't sell weeks before at Christmastime, and do so at a steep discount.
And the 1,000 people who show up with their hearts and wallets open also need what the Guilty Girls are giving.
"In the beginning of February, it's just bleak and cold. And people are like, 'Get me out of the house!' And we raise money for those in need. It's just a win-win all around."