Good Neighbor Annemarie Torcivia: A Safety Net for Local Families

REALTORS® Against Poverty

In a world of official causes and charities, Annemarie Torcivia focuses on the people who fall between the cracks.

Torcivia, a salesperson with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Malden, Mass., is the founder of REALTORS® Against Poverty, which provides grants to people and groups that fall outside the reach of official charities.

“We try to keep grants relatively small so we can help more people,” she says. “Our goal is to help the people we earn our living from—the residents of the towns and cities in the area, who may not be living on the street but have problems and crises for which they can’t get assistance.”

Last year, RAP made grants ranging from $150 to $3,500 to about 30 individuals and families. The grants included everything from a rent deposit for a woman leaving her abusive husband to food for three families who lost everything in house fires.

Torcivia’s favorite part? “Handing somebody a check. I love it,” she says. “You get to see the smiles on their faces and know you’ve made somebody’s day.”

RAP will help just about anyone in need, says Torcivia. “Grant recipients just have to live in the community and not have anywhere else to turn.”

Last year, for instance, the group raised $3,500 for a family of five boys whose mother had died of cancer and whose father had abandoned them.

“The boys’ elderly grandmother and a young aunt took them in. Going over there with the money and seeing the tears in their eyes made me realize why I do this,” she says. “It’s about caring for people.”

The group also conducts annual food, blood, coat, and toy drives and donates the proceeds to official charities, such as the United Way and the American Red Cross.

REALTORS® Against Poverty began in 1991 when Torcivia was named president of her local real estate board. Part of her job was to identify a charity to be the focus of the board’s giving during her term.

She considered naming a national group but ultimately decided to form her own charity. “I wanted to give back to the communities that had made me successful,” she says.

For most of its history, RAP was run informally by Torcivia and her friends and associates in the real estate world. “We started from zero and initially had to do a lot of pleading, a lot of begging, and a lot of soliciting,” she says. Last year, to facilitate fundraising and encourage volunteer participation, Torcivia reorganized the group as a nonprofit.

RAP raised $37,000 in 2001. This year, the goal is $40,000. “I go to anyone who will listen to me,” says Torcivia. “Sometimes they see me coming and say, ‘I know, I know, time to write a check.’ ”

Part of the group’s funding comes from mortgage companies, attorneys, and other organizations and individuals who do business with real estate professionals. “You can’t say no to her,” quips Renee Elgamal, a broker in Torcivia’s office as well as RAP’s treasurer. “When she decides to do something, it gets done. Nothing stands in her way.”

Often, Torcivia’s clients will chip in for the cause, too. “When I go out on listing appointments,” she says, “I tell clients about REALTORS® Against Poverty and often they’ll say, ‘I have some old furniture I’d like to donate’ or ‘I have a refrigerator I’m not using.’ I arrange to have items picked up, and if we don’t have an immediate use for them, we store them for the future.” Several banks and insurance companies provide storage space.

Torcivia, who grew up and still lives in neighboring Medford, has been a practitioner for 19 years, selling mostly residential real estate.

“I like the emotional part of real estate sales,” she says. “Finding a person a home is very rewarding. In a way, it’s similar to what I like about REALTORS® Against Poverty. You feel that you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.”

Does RAP lead to more real estate business? “It doesn’t lead to less, let me put it that way,” she says. “But that’s not why I do it. I do it so I can sleep at night.”

How to contact Annemarie Torcivia

Annemarie Torcivia
Century 21 North Shore/Citiwide
1711 Broadway
Saugus, MA 01906

REALTORS® Against Poverty
P.O. Box 954
Medford, MA 02155