REALTORS® don’t just help people buy and sell houses. They also pour their hearts into their communities to make them better places to live. The 10 finalists for the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2023 Good Neighbor Awards are displaying that type of commitment through their unrelenting support for charitable efforts that are getting lasting results.
This year’s finalists are devoted to a number of causes, including fighting food insecurity, helping low-income families achieve homeownership, helping breast cancer survivors or mass shooting victims—and even coordinating emergency response teams in Maui, Hawaii, after recent wildfires there.
“Each year, the Good Neighbor Awards serve as a poignant reminder of the heart and soul of our real estate community,” says NAR President Tracy Kasper. “It’s not just about buying or selling properties; it’s about investing in the places we call home. These finalists exemplify the essence of what it means to be a good neighbor, turning their passion and dedication into real-world change.”
NAR’s Good Neighbor Awards, now in its 24th year, recognizes REALTORS® who volunteer their time, money and passion to make a difference in their local communities or abroad. Nominees are selected by their personal contributions of time, finances and material contributions that go toward benefiting their cause.
Of the 10 finalists, five will be announced as winners later this fall. Honorees will receive a $10,000 grant, national media exposure for their charity and will be honored in November during NAR NXT, The REALTOR® Experience, in Anaheim, Calif. Five honorable mentions also will each receive $2,500 grants.
Vote for Your Favorite Cause
Now through Oct. 31, you and members of the public can vote for your favorite Good Neighbor finalists online. The top three vote-getters will be named as “Web Choice Favorites.” The top vote-getter will receive $2,500, and the second- and third-place finishers will each receive $1,250. The Web Choice Favorites, as well as the five winners of the Good Neighbor Awards, will be announced Oct. 5.
Meet the 2023 Good Neighbor Awards finalists:
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 created the Maui Pono Foundation to provide immediate funds to neighbors in need.
Highland Park, Ill.
A 10-year volunteer with the Highland Park Community Foundation, Betsy Brint led the response after a mass shooting occurred at the 2022 Independence Day Parade in her hometown. She oversaw the distribution of $5.8 million to the families of the deceased, injured victims and nonprofit organizations that provide mental health, legal and other services to community members affected by the shooting.
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 in three New Jersey counties.
Landmark Realty & Development Co.
A foster parent and adoptive parent, Rick Furnish brought America’s Kids Belong to South Dakota and created a collaborative relationship between the state, faith community, local businesses and the arts community to improve outcomes for kids in the foster care system. He launched “I Belong” videos, which have given nearly 150 kids a voice as they wait to be adopted. Furnish has also spent 20 years volunteering with Hope Ranch International.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Kasia Maslanka co-founded Morningday Community Solutions to redirect overstocked or returned excess merchandise from retail businesses to nonprofits and people who need it. Over 13 years, they’ve saved nonprofits $9 million in spending and have diverted over 400 tons of unused products from landfills each year.
Jed Nilson has built 15 homes through the Northern Wasatch Association of REALTORS®’ Have a Heart Foundation, which sells the homes to families in need at a deep discount. His company, subcontractors and suppliers have donated millions of dollars in labor and supplies to make these dream homes a reality. Nilson is also building a resource center for the nonprofit Encircle to support LGBTQ+ youth and families.
Keller Williams High Country
A breast cancer survivor, Irene Sawyer founded the High Country Breast Cancer Foundation, which eases the burden of medical bills for cancer patients. The nonprofit funds wigs, mastectomy bras, breast prostheses and other cancer-related garments. They also contribute to the college funds of surviving children and have brought a mammogram bus to the area for the first time.
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 boys and now plans to break ground on an affordable housing project to provide holistic care for troubled families.
Keller Williams Realty
Steven Sharpe co-founded Camp Horizon with his wife, Lindsey, to offer a summer camp experience to kids who have physical disabilities like paralysis, spina bifida or cerebral palsy. Since 2005, the camp has engaged more than 500 kids in accessible activities such as canoeing, horseback riding and fishing. To ensure the children’s happiness and safety, the camp has more than 50 volunteer counselors, many with medical training.
Anita and Jay Sherley
Big Sky Brokers LLC
Anita and Jay Sherley provide stable housing and mentoring to at-risk young men and women, many who are homeless, recently released from jail or too old for foster care. 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.
“We continue to be inspired by the positive change the Good Neighbor Award finalists are making in their communities across the country,” says Mickey Neuberger, CMO at realtor.com®, the primary sponsor for the Good Neighbor Awards. (The Center for REALTOR® Development also is a sponsor). “They serve as role models not just for their fellow real estate agents but for everyone else who comes in contact with them.”