Bernice Helman Steps Away From Her Comfort Zone

The 2013 Good Neighbor winner is ever on the look out for ways to shine a light on the hidden struggles in her community.

We were surprised to hear that Bernice Helman was a tad nervous before her visit as guest editor for this issue. After all, this is the same woman who hit the dance floor in sequins and fringe in a local version of “Dancing With the Stars” to raise money for at-risk Indiana youth, who spent sleepless winter nights on the roof of a supermarket as part of a United Way fundraising campaign, and who agreed to subsist for a week on $32 worth of groceries (the barebones food stamp allotment for an individual) to raise awareness about food insecurity in her community.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect with you all,” she said cheerfully at the start of a day she devoted to weighing in on articles, discussing her volunteer work, and sharing insights from her six-county real estate market around Terre Haute, Ind.

Helman’s fearlessness in putting herself out there for causes close to her heart, along with her monumental success at fundraising—in a single year, she raised nearly $2 million as United Way of the Wabash Valley campaign chair—powerfully explain why she was selected in 2013 as a winner of REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Award.

During her visit, we learned that her business acumen is no less impressive. As vice president of a top-producing Coldwell Banker franchise that she owns with her husband Troy, Helman manages 43 agents and handles the business side of the brokerage. A former mortgage banking executive, she got into real estate a decade ago to help her husband run the company that his parents had founded. The couple also actively sell real estate but are careful not to compete with their agents, she says.

Helman encourages all real estate pros to volunteer and not to fall prey to self-limiting beliefs about much you can accomplish. “Find something that lights your fire. And don’t tell yourself you don’t have time,” she says. “I just do what I set my mind to doing,” she says.

Reviewing profiles of the 2017 Good Neighbor Award winners brought Helman back to 2013 when she was sure someone was playing a gag. “When I got the call I had won, I thought it was a joke,” she says. “I didn’t even know I was nominated.” Helman’s application was submitted by a competing broker from Century 21. The recognition she and her local United Way received after her win brought incalculable dividends. In addition to the added support for the organization, she says, “People stopped me all over town, and I’ve gained a whole new group of friends [in her fellow winners]. We share ideas for supporting each other.” The new Good Neighbors have no idea how this will change their life, Helman adds. “But it will change their life.”

She made the hard choice to step back from her formal United Way duties in January. “I’ve learned it’s healthy to cultivate new leaders to keep any organization strong,” she says. And while she’s already deepening her role with other causes, Helman might even have a bit of time now to work on her dance moves.