The National Association of REALTORS® announced Thursday the five winners of its 2023 Good Neighbor Awards—selfless real estate professionals who are leading extraordinary volunteer efforts to improve their communities, from fighting food insecurity to helping underserved youth and adults.
“As we honor this year’s Good Neighbor Awards recipients, we are reminded of the broader purpose that unites us in the real estate profession,” says NAR President Tracy Kasper. “Beyond sales and contracts, it’s the people, stories and shared dreams that matter. These winners are making a difference in communities and improving lives, underlining the true spirit of community engagement.”
Now in its 24th year, the Good Neighbor Awards recognize REALTORS® who volunteer their time to help others and make their community a better place to live. This year’s winners, who were selected during a multistage judging process, are:
- Debbie Arakaki, a major fundraiser for Maui Food Bank
- Karen DeMarco, founder of The Food Brigade
- Kasia Maslanka, co-founder of MorningDay Community Solutions
- Sandra Shank, founder of Abundant Life Ministries–Hope House Inc.
- Anita Sherley and Jay Sherley, founders of Life Houses Inc.
The five winners will receive a $10,000 grant for their charity and will be featured in the fall issue of REALTOR® Magazine. They will be honored on Nov. 15 during NAR NXT, The REALTOR® Experience in Anaheim, Calif. Learn more about this year’s Good Neighbor Awards honorees:
In the state with the nation's highest food costs, Debbie Arakaki has raised funds to provide more than one million meals through the Maui Food Bank. Since 2015, Arakaki has rallied the real estate community to host food drives, run fundraisers and volunteer for food-packing events. Now, in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires, she is amping up her efforts to help thousands of families who lost their homes. She and a group of other long-time Maui residents collaborated to create the Maui Pono Foundation to provide immediate funds to neighbors in need.
Coldwell Banker Residential Realty
Karen DeMarco was inspired by her community’s support during her battle with breast cancer and decided to pay it forward. Within three years, DeMarco went from cooking meals in her kitchen to co-founding The Food Brigade, a food pantry network that has provided more than 1,700 tons of food to tens of thousands of people across three New Jersey counties.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Kasia Maslanka co-founded Morningday Community Solutions to redirect overstocked or returned excess merchandise from retail businesses to nonprofits and people in need. Over 13 years, they have saved nonprofits $10 million in spending and diverted more than 500 tons of unused products from landfills each year.
Tag Ventures Real Estate Services Co.
Palm Coast, Fla.
In 2003, Sandra Shank opened Abundant Life Ministries–Hope House Inc. to give troubled teenage boys in Florida’s foster care system a supportive foundation. For 20 years, she has housed and mentored 300 of the most vulnerable residents, with current plans to break ground on an affordable housing complex offering holistic care services to families in need.
Anita and Jay Sherley
Big Sky Brokers LLC
Anita and Jay Sherley provide stable housing and mentoring to at-risk young men and women recently released from jail or too old for foster care, those typically at higher risks of homelessness. In the 16 years since they founded Life Houses Inc., the Sherleys have helped more than 200 at-risk young adults build life skills to transition to productive, goal-oriented lives of purpose.
5 Honorable Mentions
NAR also recognized five REALTORS® as honorable mentions, each earning $2,500 in grants for their charity.
- Betsy Brint, @properties, Highland Park, Ill., Highland Park Community Foundation
- Rick Furnish, Landmark Realty & Development Co., Spearfish, S.D., America's Kids Belong and Hope Ranch
- Jed Nilson, Nilson Homes, Ogden, Utah, Northern Wasatch Association of REALTORS®’ Have a Heart Foundation
- Irene Sawyer, Keller Williams High Country, Boone, N.C., High Country Breast Cancer Foundation
- Steven Sharpe, Keller Williams Realty, Chattanooga, Tenn., Camp Horizon
Web Choice Favorites
In September, realtor.com®, the primary sponsor of the Good Neighbor Awards, invited the public to vote for their “Web Choice Favorite” among the 10 finalists for the 2023 Good Neighbor Awards. The three top vote-getters will receive additional donations for their charities.
- Anita and Jay Sherley, who will receive an additional $2,500 bonus donation for Life Houses Inc.
- DeMarco, who will receive an additional $1,250 bonus donation for The Food Brigade.
- Arakaki, who will receive an additional $1,250 bonus donation for Maui Food Bank.
“This year’s Good Neighbor Award winners continue the tradition of raising the bar on what’s possible through giving back,” says Mickey Neuberger, realtor.com®’s chief marketing officer. “Their stories have moved us at realtor.com®, and they’ve inspired everyone who voted for their Web Choice Favorite.”NAR’s Good Neighbor Awards also is sponsored by the Center for REALTOR® Development.