Agents of Change: Making a difference in their communities and the industry
As we prepare to close out the year, it’s the perfect time to celebrate the many ways in which agents are working to support the causes they believe in.
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.
Linda Brown: It takes a (tiny home) village
After establishing an evening drop-in center at her local church, Linda Brown, an agent in Springfield, Missouri, realized she wanted to do more to serve unhoused people in her community. She and her husband founded Eden Village, a tiny-home community where homeless people can be safe, build community and start new lives.
Brown opened that first village in 2018. In 2020, she opened a second, and she has a third in the works. She has also helped like-minded people create similar communities in other regions, and there are now 11 tiny home villages underway around the country. Since starting their nonprofit work, the Browns have raised $4.75 million toward permanent housing for the homeless.
Sondra Richard: The Cajun Lady who cares
Sondra Richard, aka "The Cajun Lady" of Baton Rouge, got even with "the no-name storm" of 2016 by becoming the go-to source of support for folks who need help after natural disasters. First, she saved herself and her parents from rising floodwaters, then she repaired her damaged home and helped other folks sell theirs — without taking a commission.
Richard also created the Cajun Ladies Crisis team, pulling together trusted volunteers to help people in her community when disasters strike, an all-too-common occurrence in her native Baton Rouge. The group bands together to make sure folks who need assistance — especially elderly community members — can get to higher ground or heat their homes. "We are from here too, and we can take care of you every time," she said.
Justine Jimenez Garcia: Creating opportunities for Hispanic clients and agents
As a Cuban immigrant whose family struggled after the death of her father, Justine Jimenez Garcia knows what it's like to go without. As a successful business owner, she knows that real estate can change lives: "Real estate is about homeownership and generational wealth and being able to pass it from generation to generation."
Garcia is passionate about teaching Hispanics — especially young women — about entrepreneurship and how to make and grow money, employing them at her real estate firm and teaching them about the industry.
She's committed to giving back as a member of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and NAR's Multicultural Committee.
Inez Wade: Helping fund the fight for a cure
Devastated by the death of her brother, Inez Wade started working to fund cancer research in the hopes of eradicating the disease that claimed his life. "I decided that if I could spare one person his fate, I could better accept his loss," she said.
That was more than 30 years ago, and since that time Wade and her husband have created two research funds and supported construction of the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman Center, which provides centralized care for patients. Wade's philanthropic endeavors, along with those of many other substantial donors, are seeing tangible results, including 20 U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals for new cancer treatments.
Kerry Wendel: Guilt-free giving
Ten years ago, Kerry Wendel was looking for a way to give back to her community. She and a handful of other women, confident they could run a successful event, established the "Guilty Girls Giving Group" to raise funds for local charities. The group organizes an annual Warehouse Sale, where dozens of 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. Each year, they select a different nonprofit to support. "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."
Heather McDonough Domi: Raising the bar for agents
As they say, a few bad apples can spoil the batch. New York City agent Heather McDonough Domi believes all agents should aspire to meet a high ethical bar and represent their profession with integrity. That's why she co-founded the New York Residential Agent Continuum (NYRAC), which is on a mission "to elevate the ethical standards of our profession, advocate on behalf of agents and consumers, and collaborate with industry leaders to ensure the health and future of New York City."
And it's not just talk — McDonough Domi and other NYRAC leaders have been fighting for agent representation in their local association, meeting with members of state government to create positive change in the industry, and helping the next generation of agents start their careers on the right foot.