September 28 is National Good Neighbor Day – a day that was created to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of being a good neighbor. REALTOR Magazine has been celebrating this concept for almost two decades through an effort that has recognized more than 160 REALTORS® for their service to their communities.
For the past 17 years, REALTOR Magazine’s Good Neighbor Awards have recognized REALTORS® from across North America who dedicate countless volunteer hours to improve the lives of their neighbors and serve as leaders in their communities. Through Good Neighbor Award grants and associated programs, Good Neighbor charities have received more than $1,000,000 in donations.
Today, NAR announced the five finalists who will each receive a $10,000 grant for their charity, along with a feature in REALTOR Magazine and will be honored during the 2016 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida.
Here are the 2016 Good Neighbor Award Winners:
Cindy Barrett, Keller Williams Realty, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Cindy and her husband cofounded Christmas in Action-Spartanburg in 1996 to help low-income people in their community remedy health and safety issues such as leaky roofs, electrical fire hazards and rotting floors. Since then, she has inspired thousands of volunteers — including college students from around the country who flock to Spartanburg to use their time off from school in a meaningful way — to complete free home repairs on more than 800 homes for low-income seniors, people with disabilities and veterans.
Susan Gruen Helsinger, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Merrick, New York
After her teenage son died suddenly at school from an undiagnosed heart abnormality, Helsinger was determined to do something to prevent similar tragedies. She founded The Jason F. Gruen Research Foundation and for 30 years, she has fought to bring awareness, fund research and equipment, and screen teen athletes so that those with cardiac issues can seek treatment. Helsinger has raised nearly $2 million to fund efforts to understand these ailments and diagnose them early.
Ed Liebzeit, Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Liebzeit is board president of Community Safety Network, which provides shelter and advocacy to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Liebzeit, a Vietnam veteran, oversaw a strategic plan that emphasizes education and early intervention to encourage people in the community to recognize warning signs and refer potential victims. He has raised more than $450,000 since 2015.
Wyn Ray, Coldwell Banker Burnet, Chaska, Minnesota
Ray and his wife serve a very remote and forgotten area of Ethiopia. A former teacher, Ray created a cooperative effort with villagers in Wekin to improve living conditions and educational opportunities. Since 2008, the Rays, now partnering with the nonprofit New Covenant Foundation, have provided clean water and sanitation to 11,000 people.
Sarah Sorenson, Whale’s Tail Realty Inc., Wailuku, Hawaii
Sorenson founded Wishing Well…for Maui Students in 2007 to support the chronically underfunded public schools. Schools create wish lists of needed items, like school supplies, furniture and computer equipment. Then she finds donors to supply them. Wishing Well serves 23,000 students in 35 schools in Maui County with donations valued at $1.5 million.
During the month of September, the public cast nearly 42,000 votes for the 10 Good Neighbor Award finalists to determine who would be named the Web Choice winner. The Good Neighbor finalist with the most votes was Danna Johnson, Crye-Leike, Realtors®, Jonesboro, Arkansas, who will receive an additional $1,000 bonus donation for Make-A-Wish® Mid South courtesy of realtor.com® in addition to the $2,500 she earned for being a finalist. Johnson has fulfilled wishes for more than 50 children with life-threatening medical conditions and has raised more than $3 million.
The winner videos premiered today at realtor.org/gna. You can also see a playlist of all five winners by clicking here.