REALTORS® Take Action

REALTORS® work to improve health and quality of life in communities across the country

“REALTORS® live, work and volunteer in their communities and take immense pride in working to improve them,” Ruth Link the CEO of the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® recently commented about a local playground project. But Ruth’s comments illustrate a core value of REALTORS® everywhere — concerned and active business leaders taking action and doing all they can to make their communities the best possible places to live.

REALTOR® Associations in Greenwood, South Carolina; Missoula, Montana; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Wilmington, North Carolina are actively promoting movement in their communities. Organizations in each city have used NAR Placemaking Micro-Grants to encourage healthy living and facilitate physical fitness in a variety of ways. The results are parks and green spaces that provide a variety of fitness options and healthy living choices for users of all ages and abilities. These efforts are truly improving local communities.

REALTORS® Trail in Greenwood, South Carolina

The Greenwood Association of REALTORS® has taken the lead in helping convert 54 acres of prime, but underutilized, green space near the city’s heart into the Grace Street Park. When completed, the park — located around an artesian well that was the city’s original water source — will feature walking trails, a dog park, pavilions, playgrounds and even a water feature.

Greenwood REALTORS® donated funds and participated in a work day in creating a walking trail around a lovely pond that is known as REALTORS® Trail. The trail has become a popular park destination and was recently used in a community wellness event. Their commitment goes well beyond the initial trail development. Greenwood REALTORS® also made a 10-year financial and manpower commitment for the maintenance of REALTORS® Trail. Funds from an NAR Placemaking Grant are assisting with park development of the historically popular, but under-used green space.

Greenwood’s Mayor Welborn Adams told the Greenwood Index-Journal that parks are essential to the community and public/private efforts such as the development of the Grace Street Park not only benefit current residents, but will encourage many young people to stay and live in Greenwood. Park planners agree that the fact that Greenwood REALTORS® have been at the forefront of the park’s development has prompted greater involvement by other groups and significantly helped the project move forward.

Kim Clark, past president of the Greenwood Association of REALTORS®, explained to a reporter with the online GWDToday why Greenwood REALTORS® are so committed to the creation of the Grace Street Park. “We see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to share with our community. We are well aware that Greenwood is growing and it’s thrilling to welcome our new neighbors and industries with REALTORS® Trail.”

Missoula, Montana REALTORS® promote activities for all abilities

In Missoula, REALTORS® have contributed money and muscle to make sure all residents — no matter their physical abilities — feel welcome and have access to parks and recreational facilities. Three years of planning, fundraising and sweat equity have helped create the Silver Summit playground, the city’s first all-abilities playground.

“As the parent of a child with special needs, this playground is very near and dear to me and my family,” says Brint Wahlberg, past president of the Missoula Organization of REALTORS®. “REALTORS® want to give back to the community and this is one way we can help make Missoula a better place in which to live and raise our families.”

An NAR Placemaking Grant helped make the all-abilities playground one of the most accessible parks in the state. The playground features equipment designed so that children, regardless of their ability level, can play together. The park features a merry-go-round that is wheelchair accessible, swings with additional supports, an overlook, a sensory play area and a climbing feature that lets any child feel like king of the hill. Rubberized surfaces make navigating the play area easier. Plenty of green space allows children to take a break and recharge and then return and play more.

Children with a variety of ability issues shared suggestions for the park’s amenities and visually impaired children helped select the park equipment’s color scheme. Community groups pitched in and helped build the park. Missoula REALTORS® helped install equipment, dig holes and pour concrete. Wahlberg said that so many REALTORS® volunteered to help build the park that there was a waiting list of workers.

Staying fit and healthy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Cedar Rapids calls itself a City of Five Seasons, where the fifth season means taking time to enjoy the other four. Folks living in Cedar Rapids pride themselves on staying active and in 2014 were recognized in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index as living in the ninth healthiest small city in the country.

The Cedar Rapids Area Association of REALTORS® and the Iowa Association of REALTORS® are ensuring that Cedar Rapids residents stay healthy, active and fit. REALTORS® used local and NAR funds to create a fitness zone at a city park that previously lacked most recreational amenities. The fitness zone at the city’s Cherokee Park includes six outdoor exercise stations.

“We know that placing outdoor exercise equipment in parks has a substantial impact on park users. Typically people use the park more and are more active when they are in the park. We are thrilled that the Iowa Association of REALTORS® made this fitness zone possible for the public,” says Sven Leff, Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Director.

The REALTOR® Associations, with the help of an NAR Placemaking Grant, not only contributed to the installation of the fitness zone, but when the project’s progress was stalled, local REALTORS® conducted additional fundraising and lined up a local concrete contractor in order to quickly complete the park.

Growing relationships in Wilmington, North Carolina

REALTORS® in Wilmington are promoting physical fitness in a very down-to-earth fashion and, at the same time, are helping build a sense of community. Some of the city’s newest residents are benefitting from the city’s new community garden.

Located on a previously unused lot owned by the Devon Park United Methodist Church (UMC), this community garden serves 13 refugee families from Myanmar, — formerly known as Burma — four neighborhood families and a local church. The garden’s 18 raised beds not only provide a source of fresh produce for the local gardeners, but are helping plant the seeds of a greater community connection.

Evan McMillan, former community affairs director for the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS ® (WRAR) wrote in a blog posted in Placemaking in Action that “the garden will be a way for the refugees to feel at home in their new neighborhood and to create community cohesion, bringing people of varying backgrounds together through a shared love of gardening and of place.”

WRAR partnered with the Wilmington Housing Authority, Wilmington Green — a local nonprofit — and the Interfaith Refugee Ministry to help create a sustainable model for community gardens in the Wilmington area. An NAR Placemaking Grant is helping support and create opportunities for community engagement with the development of the Devon Park UMC Community Garden. Funds have been used to purchase wood for raised garden beds, tools, soil, seeds and starter plants. Nearly 90 local REALTORS® also pitched in and helped build the garden.

Sara Pascal, who coordinates the Wilmington office of Interfaith Refugee Ministries, says the garden is an important food source for the refugees, many of whom don’t drive and would have trouble getting access to fresh produce. It also helps bring together the neighborhood through gardening and a shared community ‘backyard’.

Across the country, parks and green spaces promote fitness and activity and provide community connections. REALTORS® in Montana, Iowa, the Carolinas and all points in between are working together to help create beautiful and functional public green spaces that benefit everyone living in the community.

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