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Red-blooded Passion Shown by Realtors and a Realtor Association

April 12 2020

We all need to find ways to help in our local communities--and the more real estate professionals I speak with, the more hope I have for humanity. Earlier, I shared Melody Botting's story about volunteering at the San Antonio Food bank. This week, I had the chance to speak with Addie Owens, the President of the REALTORS Association of Lake and Sumter Counties in Florida (RALSC).

I saw a notice that RALSC was co-sponsoring a blood drive. Before contacting her, I did a little research. The web is filled with stories from the American Red Cross about blood shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I decided it was a timely subject, so I reached out to Addie.

In the beginning of our conversation, Addie said one of her goals being president this year was to rise to the position of helping the community, as RALSC is the largest not-for-profit organization in Lake and Sumter Counties, Fla. She shared that, while attending a NAR event a few years ago, she noticed a banner stating that 68% of all REALTORS® are involved in volunteer leadership in their community. She was shocked with the number, but when you consider young sports coaches, PTA, local government, civic organizations, church leaders and other roles quietly filled by real estate professionals, it makes sense.

This year, RALSC established a relationship with L.A.S.E.R. (Lake and Sumter Emergency Response). The mission of L.A.S.E.R. is to strengthen Lake and Sumter Counties recovery from any disaster through a coordinated, community-wide approach that provides for the immediate and long-term unmet needs of our citizens.

Addie reached out to L.A.S.E.R. at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and asked what the association could do to help. L.A.S.E.R. was preparing to conduct a much-needed blood drive, and RALSC committed to join in to help. On April 9, RALSC hosted "One Blood One Drive" in the parking lot of the association. Members, families, staff and friends of RALSC used their contacts to help fill all the available time slots available to give blood. This is a great example of the REALTOR® family giving back to the community!

rdc Stephenie WinheimWhile speaking with Addie, she mentioned that one of her members was the perfect example of a REALTOR®/hero—Stephenie Winheim. We set up a time to talk and I was excited to have a chance to interview this remarkable person.

Stephenie has been a REALTOR® for the past four years, working with Dave Lowe Realty in Mount Dora, Fla. Before becoming a REALTOR®, she was (and still is) a nurse, but she is committed to real estate full-time. Stephenie was also doing outside marketing for Regency Park Assisted Living and Memory Care until COVID-19 changed our lives. With Stephenie's more than a decade of experience at bedside care as a nurse, and the need for extra staffing, she returned to nursing at Regency Park to oversee patient and staff needs.

Regency Park Assisted Living has 42 patients in their memory care facility, which is where Stephenie spends her time. With the fear of COVID-19 spreading in care facilities like Regency Park, the patients are confined to their room. This has been a traumatic experience for the patients, as they don't understand why they've been confined. The facility is also not allowing outside visitors in the building, so some visitors are going to the windows to see their loved ones, while some patients don't understand why they can't come in.

Stephenie shared that most of the memory care patients are completely confused, as their world has been turned upside down since their routine has dramatically changed. With memory care patients, a normal routine is best for them. One patient's daughter came in every evening and helped her shower. But now that the daughter can't come in, she is totally confused, losing track of days and times. This is where Stephenie is stepping in to help with the new routine.

I can't imagine helping 42 people with Alzheimer's or dementia normally, but adding the situation of them not being able to understand why the world has changed due to COVID-19 intensifies things. Now, I can't imagine going to work each day worried that my job could be in a petri dish—but Stephenie Winheim, you do, and that makes you a REALTOR® and a HERO!

A Hero Before and During the Pandemic

My articles have been urging those in the real estate industry to step up and find ways to help in your local community. While speaking with these REALTOR®/HEROS I see a common thread—giving back to the community they love! I also learned that 70% of all REALTORS® are community leaders even before the pandemic. They serve as youth sports coaches, PTA, local government, civic organizations, church leaders and many other roles in order to make their community a better place to live.

dick betts cristal drakeThat brings me to my next REALTOR®/HERO, Cristal Drake with Reliance Real Estate Services, who didn't need a pandemic to start giving back.

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Cristal (virtually) this week and want to share her story. Cristal decided to enter the real estate world as a REALTOR® during the worst time possible to start—2008. One thing she had going for her she loved her hometown of Fullerton, California! When she speaks of Fullerton, you can see her light up as she shares all the great qualities of her town. I believe this plays a big role in her desire to help others.

In 2009, Cristal was volunteering at a local food bank. While delivering to the Women's Transitional Living Center, she felt the need to do more, so she asked how she could help. Socks, yes socks, were the first request they made. Cristal launched a sock drive to help the center and it's still happening today—after a few years, she named it Socktober. Cristal distributes baskets around Fullerton with a sign:

  1. Purchase Socks
  2. Donate Socks
  3. Feel Better

Her sock drives have been very successful, collecting between 750 and 1,000 pairs a year during her October sock drive.

In 2010, Cristal committed to Habitat for Humanity to help internationally. During her eight years, she traveled to Brazil, Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, India and Nicaragua. This was the part I could tell was close to her heart as she thought about how people in those countries were affected by the pandemic. She explained the houses they would help build were 100 to 300 square feet for entire family.

"A roof over your head is the most basic human need," she says, and being able to help in those countries was a very touching experience for her. When leaving a build from another country, the fulfillment of changing lives left her with a feeling of accomplishment.

The past two years, she has traveled to Thailand and Bali to become a yoga instructor. Cristal feels yoga is another gift she can give. During this time of high anxiety and stress, she feels yoga is another tool to help people feel better. Every week, she does a Facebook live for about 40 minutes suitable for all levels to help with stress relief. With her doing the session on Facebook, folks don't need to worry about what they look like or how they are doing the exercise.

In wrapping up our time together, she shared her true outlook on life. "I always think what do I have and what can I do no matter what's happening to help." When the stay at home order was issued for the state of California, she decided to go into her yard and trim back all her succulent plants, gather up pots and dirt and set up a stand in front of her house with the following sign:

  • Take and Make
  • Take Some Succulents
  • Take Some Soil (if you need some)
  • Take It Home and Plant It
  • Take an Extra to Give to Someone Who May Be Feeling Lonely

Cristal Drake you are and have been a REALTOR®/HERO!

Dick Betts is a national speaker, trainer and consultant. Learn more at