The Good Neighbor Awards recognize REALTORSŪ who've made an extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of life in their communities through volunteer work. Five winners will receive $10,000 grants for their cause. The 2009 deadline will be May 22.
2008 Good Neighbor Finalists Announced
Good Neighbor Finalist Leads Group for Developmentally Disabled
Marla S. Johnson, GRI, Maryland Real Estate Group, Inc., Frederick, Md.
Johnson is president of Spectrum Support Inc., an organization that supports people with developmental disabilities such as mental retardation, autism, and cerebral palsy, 60 percent of whom also suffer from psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression.
Johnson says she is inspired to help because there are so many people who need support but have nowhere else to turn, often having been rejected by their families, psychiatric hospitals, and other community providers. "These are people that society doesn't want to deal with," she says. "But we don't turn anybody away. Everybody deserves a chance."
In the 15 years Johnson has served on the board, Spectrum Support has expanded from providing day habilitation and supported employment in Maryland to providing housing, job coaching and placement, transportation, and family support. It has also opened additional offices in Tennessee.
Johnson stepped up into the role of president at a key time and is credited for the organization's recent growth spurt. Under Johnson's direction, the agency has grown in one year from an annual budget of $4 million to nearly $6 million and has begun a residential program that currently houses 26 people. She is responsible for hiring the organization's first development director and persuading the board to launch its first serious fundraising campaign.
"Marla helped move this organization from a mom and pop effort and convince the board to operate more like a business," says Debra Langseth, Spectrum's executive director. "Marla lives her commitment to Spectrum Support on a daily basis...to enhance the lives of all people with disabilities."