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 Helps Feed Struggling Families
Carole E. Sharp, Coldwell Banker Neuhaus Real Estate, Staunton, Ill.
Without Carole Sharp, many people would struggle just to put food on the table every day. Sharp runs the Staunton Food Pantry, which serves more than 60 families a month, up from 15 when she started volunteering there eight years ago.
Unlike larger communities, this town of 5,100 people 40 miles outside of St. Louis has few national charities for support. Nevertheless, the Staunton Food Pantry has become a model charity in an area where other food pantries have failed.
Volunteers help on Tuesdays for the weekly food distributions, but otherwise Sharp handles the entire operation by herself. She applies for grants and secures corporate sponsors, writes articles for local papers, sorts and inspects all food donations, stocks the shelves—often shopping for needed items herself—and plans food drives through schools, scout troops and churches year round instead of focusing on the traditional holiday season. Sharp acknowledges every donation with a handwritten personal thank-you note.
At the beginning, Sharp says, the stories of the people in need were difficult for her to hear. “I didn’t think I could do this when I started," she says. "People thanked me, and we both ended up in tears.”
But now Sharp says helping makes her feel good, and it gives her perspective. “I had no idea that the poverty existed. Most assume it’s something that happens only in third-world countries,” says Sharp, who became director in 2001 and has since helped feed more than 8,000.
The area’s economic problems are due to multiple factors, some dating to the 1960s when area mines closed. In the last 10 years, periodic droughts have hurt the farmers.
"You hear that jobs have been created but not here,” says, William A. Napper, who publishes Sharp’s articles about the pantry's needs in one of the local newspapers.
Sharon Hartman, who manages the adjoining thrift store, credits Sharp with keeping Staunton’s pantry alive. “She genuinely helps those in trouble and has made a difference in their lives,” Hartman says.