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
The Sonenberg Co., Roswell, Ga.
North Fulton Community Charities
Strong leadership is key to helping
David Sonenberg remembers how his late mother used to confront the suffering she saw in the world, saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.” With that mind-set, he resolved to find a way to help those in his community facing temporary crises get back on their feet.
In 1983 Sonenberg and some friends raised $23,000 to start the North Fulton Community Charities in Roswell, Ga. It’s a multifaceted services organization that today helps more than 11,000 people each year with emergency aid. Support can take the form of food, clothing, medical supplies shelter, fuel, home repairs, and even mortgage assistance.
NFCC calls itself a grassroots organization that takes people who want to help and puts them in touch with others in need, sometimes assisting as many as 100 families a day; it has an annual budget of $2 million.
“Whatever the need is, we try to help,” says Sonenberg. “Our vision and mission are the same today as they were when we began more than 20 years ago, and that’s to make a difference in the lives of people in our community.”
Sonenberg, president of a family commercial real estate company, The Sonenberg Co. in Roswell, volunteers more than 1,000 hours per year to NFCC. He also contributed $35,000 last year.
“I believe that, as real estate professionals, we have an obligation to make our communities better,” he says. “I love where I live, where we raised our family, and where I work. I hope that through my involvement in NFCC, I’ve made a difference.”
He has, indeed, made a difference, says retired minister and NFCC board member emeritus Cy Mallard. “David and his wife, Carolyn, saw a need and had the vision and the determination to meet it.”
One NFCC client, a single mother who was cleaning houses to pay her bills, says she received food, financial aid, and counseling for her daughter, who was languishing after her parents’ divorce. “NFCC even found me a nice suit for an interview that resulted in a better job as a receptionist,” says the woman, who requested anonymity.
Those helped by NFCC show their gratitude in many ways—some with just a smile, others with a letter and, occasionally, a check. “We helped one young woman when she was inundated with bills. When she got back on her feet, she sent us $70, asking us to help someone else like her,” says Sonenberg.
Not everyone NFCC helps is a local resident. Sonenberg recalls that in 2005 NFCC was “swamped” by 375 families fleeing Hurricane Katrina. The organization became the focal point for coordinating the entire community’s assistance to the victims. “We raised special Katrina funds, assisting evacuees with clothing, food, shelter, and airfare to reunite families. Most important, we let them know we cared about them,” he says.
Also in 2005, NFCC celebrated one of the most important milestones in its history—the dedication of a new headquarters in a 20,000-square-foot former motorcycle store. The ribbon cutting was a tribute to NFCC and to Sonenberg, who’s credited with leading the 18-month capital campaign that made the new building possible.
“Integrity and hard work are essential to success, not only in real estate but in leading a major community-based charity,” says Roswell attorney Jeff Hamling, vice president of the NFCC. “North Fulton is fortunate to have David Sonenberg in the community.”
Perhaps the most telling tribute to Sonenberg comes from longtime friend Trummie Patrick, who has worked closely with him on community events for more than 30 years. “David has been a tireless worker and a great supporter of whatever our community has needed. His mother would be very proud of him.”