REALTOR® Magazine Announces 2003 Good Neighbor Awards Finalists

WASHINGTON – REALTOR® Magazine, the official publication of the National Association of REALTORS®, has announced the names of the 10 Good Neighbor Awards finalists for 2003.

The Good Neighbor Awards, in its fourth year, recognizes the ongoing efforts of REALTORS® who make exceptional contributions to improving the quality of life in their communities. Nominations reached an all-time high this year, with nearly 300 entries.

Five winners will be selected from among these 10 finalists and will be announced in the November issue of REALTOR® Magazine. The winners will receive travel expenses to the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco in November, national media exposure for their community cause, and a $7,500 grant—up from $5,000 last year—for their cause. In addition to the winners, five honorable mentions will each receive a $1,500 grant.

NAR President Cathy Whatley said the Good Neighbor Awards gives NAR the opportunity to honor REALTORS® who give of themselves to improve the quality of life in their communities. “These are not people who seek the spotlight, but their work shines through. The tremendous response to the program demonstrates how Realtors all across the country embrace many worthy causes and are committed to doing so much more to help their neighbors in addition to marketing real estate.”

The following 10 REALTORS® were named finalists in the Good Neighbor program:

James Austin Jr., Austin Commercial Real Estate, Fort Worth, Texas. Austin founded the Renaissance Cultural Center in 1991 to provide cultural opportunities and college scholarships to inner-city youth. RCC offers such events as film festivals, poetry readings, talent competitions, and celebrity speakers and has awarded $200,000 in scholarships since 1995. Austin also founded the National Cowboys of Color Museum to highlight the little-known contributions of minorities who helped settle the West.

Jim Bess Sr., Blue Chip Real Estate, Apple Valley, Calif. To make Christmas brighter for needy families, Bess works year round to raise money and buy toys for children who might not receive any gifts without his efforts. Founder and president Victor Valley Toys for Tots Inc., Bess and his organization have touched more than 20,000 families in 16 years—nearly 3,000 families last year alone.

Claudia Deprez, CIPS, CRB, CRS,Illustrated Properties Real Estate Inc., West Palm Beach, Fla. Inspired by a drive-by shooting of a 4-year-old girl, Deprez formed Northend Coalition of Neighborhoods, a grassroots association of 10 inner-city neighborhoods, to fight crime and blight. The groups’ many successes include increasing police presence, reducing drug crimes and prostitution, creating a court watch committee to ensure that repeat offenders serve time, having 65 abandoned properties demolished and hundreds rehabbed, and getting the city to donate land for a park.

James Pacheco, Prudential California Realty, Castro Valley, Calif. In the 10 years since Pacheco founded a local chapter of Christmas in April to help low-income, elderly, and disabled people repair and renovate their homes, he has led more than 150 projects. Since last year, he has volunteered almost 2,500 hours and led 200 volunteers on 21 projects to repair homes, schools, and an Alzheimer’s day care center.

Carolyn Petreccia, GRI, CRS, CBR, RE/MAX Advantage Group, Warwick, R.I. Only weeks after a fellow REALTOR® was killed by her ex-husband despite a restraining order, Petreccia founded a group to lobby for stronger domestic violence laws. Friends of Barbara Lombardi Inc. helped push through a new state law that makes it easier to hold offenders and makes stalking a felony on the first offense. Now they are promoting a bill that would take guns away from people who have restraining orders against them.

Silvia S. Rodriguez, CIPS, GRI, Silvia International Realty, Rockville, Md. For 25 years, Rodriguez has been a force in reducing discrimination in housing, education, employment, and healthcare through organizations like Centro Catolico Hispano. She is credited with successfully lobbying for stronger state civil rights laws, initiated a statewide investigation on fair housing, and serves as volunteer chairperson for the Maryland Commission on Human Relations—for which she has raised more than $1 million.

Scott Swendiman, Swendiman & Associates, Redding, Calif. Swendiman founded Wesley Neighborhood Inc. to clean up a blighted neighborhood surrounding his church. In two years, the group rehabbed 16 homes—with much of the labor from Swendiman himself—to create decent affordable housing and reduce crime in the area. The group also recently opened a family resource center.

Bobbie Tugwell, GRI, CRS, ERA Stirling Properties, Baton Rouge, La. Since the death of her husband 15 years ago, Tugwell has been a strong supporter of Hospice of Baton Rouge, raising more than $100,000, recruiting hundreds of volunteers, and volunteering as a respite caregiver to provide rest and strength to families who are caring for dying loved ones at home. She also serves on the state’s advisory committee for hospice care.

Bert E. Waugh Jr., GRI,Prudential Northwest Properties, Beaverton, Ore. Twelve years ago, Waugh founded Transitional Youth to reach out to homeless teens by supporting organizations that provide clothing and hot meals, offer drug rehab services and recreational programs, help teens complete high school, and offer job training.

Kathie Wells, CRS, Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, Kailua, Hawaii.Since she founded Community Helping Schools, Wells has helped to improve the quality of education at 31 area public schools. She finds out what the schools need and then solicits business and individuals to donate the items. Since 2000 she has distributed about $150,000 in materials, such as musical instruments, sports equipment, books, games, and computers.

“These finalists for REALTOR Magazine’s 2003 Good Neighbor Awards have made tremendous contributions to their communities,” said REALTOR Magazine Editorial Director Pamela Geurds Kabati. “They’re an inspiration to all of us. All our outstanding nominees—and particularly our finalists—exemplify the spirit of community involvement that is typical of Realtors and demonstrate how invested Realtors are in the health of their communities. We’re proud that the Good Neighbor Awards help show the world the positive difference Realtors make in the places they call home.”

REALTOR Magazine’s Good Neighbor Awards is sponsored by eNeighborhoods Inc.—which has supported the program since its inception—Fannie Mae and Connecting Neighbors.

“As founding sponsor of the Good Neighbor Awards, I get excited at this time of year to learn about the truly amazing things that Realtors are accomplishing at the grassroots level in their communities,” says Stu Siegel, CEO of eNeighborhoods Inc., who has also personally contributed to the Good Neighbor Awards through The Stuart & Jill Siegel Foundation. “I’ve found that the most successful of Realtors are those who give back to their communities and integrate community service with their day-to-day businesses in incredible ways.”

Nominees were judged on their level of personal contribution of time, as well as financial and material contributions to benefit their cause. To be eligible, nominees had to be members in good standing of NAR.

eNeighborhoods Inc., of Boca Raton, Fla., is the industry leader in providing easy access to neighborhood information for every community in the United States. Real estate professionals who use the services of eNeighborhoods, a REALTOR VIP partner, continually exceed their clients’ expectations by providing consumer-friendly information about neighborhood demographics, public and private schools, housing values and trends, crime rates, and climate.

Fannie Mae is a private, shareholder-owned company based in Washington, D.C., that provides financial products and services that make it possible for low-, moderate-, and middle-income families to buy homes. Since 1968, Fannie Mae has helped more than 43 million families achieve homeownership.

Connecting Neighbors, of Walled Lake, Mich., is the country’s most experienced creator of Web-based venues that connect residents in individual neighborhoods. Connecting Neighbors Web sites, which allow residents to place free classified ads and announcements, are thoroughly screened for all content. Real estate professionals sponsor the sites as a service to residents and use them as powerful marketing and farming tools.