Five REALTORS® whose selfless drive and ingenuity helped fuel their charitable efforts to new heights in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic have been named the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2022 Good Neighbor Awards winners. For 23 years, the Good Neighbor Awards has recognized real estate professionals who make an extraordinary impact on their communities through volunteer work. The five individuals named as this year’s winners exemplify how REALTORS® make their communities a better place to live, work and raise a family.
“I am so proud to honor our Good Neighbor Awards winners for how they’ve effected change to improve the lives of others in their communities,” says NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith. “Each of these REALTORS® has devoted hundreds of hours a year and raised huge sums of money for their respective causes. I salute them for their vision, dedication, passion and selfless generosity.”
Each of the five winners, who were selected by a multi-stage, criteria-based judging process, will receive a $10,000 grant for their charity and be featured in the fall 2022 issue of REALTOR® Magazine. They will also be presented with crystal trophies on Nov. 12 during NAR NXT, The REALTOR® Experience—the association’s annual conference—in Orlando.
Meet the 2022 Good Neighbor Awards Winners
Keller Williams Realty Peachtree Road
In 2020, Jennifer Barnes thought she would feed people for just a few weeks until the COVID-19-induced shutdowns ended. That experience opened her eyes to an underlying vulnerability in her affluent, Atlanta-area neighborhood that extended well beyond food. She founded the nonprofit, Solidarity Sandy Springs, which inspires more than 2,600 volunteers to provide wide-ranging community services for thousands of families, including free eye exams and glasses, flu vaccines, job fairs, back-to-school backpacks and more. Barnes has also distributed nearly one million pounds of food to approximately 46,000 shoppers. Read her story and watch the video.
Kansas City, Mo.
Dennis Curtin founded Mimi’s Pantry to offer a more positive food pantry experience to people in need. The state-of-the-art, 6,000-square-foot facility welcomes shoppers to browse the aisles and choose their food, just as they would in a grocery store. The nonprofit invested in commercial refrigeration equipment and offers fresh meat, produce and milk. It also has a play area and library for kids and is currently building a greenhouse and an orchard of fruit trees and berry bushes. In three years, it has served 50,000 individuals. Read his story and watch the video.
Emerald Isle Properties
Since the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i may only have a handful of homes for sale under $1 million at any time, Jim Edmonds, founder of the nonprofit Permanently Affordable Living (PAL) Kaua'i, partners with other nonprofits to build and convert affordable housing for workers. Edmonds navigates the complex challenges of poor infrastructure and resource scarcity through innovative, cost-saving solutions like solar energy, edible landscaping, shared electric vehicles and shared bicycles. Read his story and watch the video.
Heather Griesser LaPierre
RE/MAX Preferred Newtown Square
Newtown Square, Pa.
To address food insecurity in her neighborhood and worldwide, Heather Griesser LaPierre founded Kids Against Hunger Philadelphia. She rallies hundreds of volunteers each month to pack nutritious, ready-to-make pasta- and rice-based meals. When schools were shut down in 2021, she doubled production to 350,000 meals per month to ensure children who depended on school lunches were fed. Since 2015, she has packed and distributed more than 9 million meals. Read her story and watch the video.
Diamond Life Real Estate
Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
For 26 years, MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation (MWYF) founder Mal Washington has been breaking the cycle of poverty through a vibrant after-school mentoring program. Originally rooted in his beloved sport of tennis, MWYF now serves 500 kids annually through a comprehensive youth development program of academic tutoring, leadership skills, financial training and fitness. He is proud of the 100% high school graduation rate of the program as the surrounding neighborhood’s dropout rate is 20%. Read his story and watch the video.
In addition to the winners, the following five REALTORS® have been recognized as Good Neighbor Award honorable mentions and will each receive $2,500 grants for their charity:
- Tamara "Tami" Hicks of Century 21 Signature Real Estate in Ames, Iowa, whose nonprofit Overflow Thrift Store has raised more than a half-million dollars for charities and has saved millions of items from landfills.
- Lisa Hoeve of Coldwell Banker Woodland Schmidt in Holland, Mich., whose nonprofit Hope Pkgs has provided overnight comfort bags to more than 4,200 foster children.
- Debbie McCabe of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®, and the Trident Group in Devon, Pa., whose nonprofit Covenant House Pennsylvania houses and empowers young people facing homelessness.
- Debbie Miller of Webpro Realty in Lakeland, Fla., whose nonprofit kidsPACK feeds 3,000 children on weekends when they don’t get school lunch.
- Kathy Opperman of Long & Foster Real Estate in Collegeville, Pa., whose nonprofit Pillars of Light and Love has offered 800 free workshops and support groups to build self-esteem and resilience in adults and kids.
In September, realtor.com®, a primary sponsor of the Good Neighbor Awards, invited the public to vote for their favorite of the 10 finalists. The top three vote-getters all received additional donations for their charities. The following REALTORS® have been crowned as this year’s Web Choice Favorites:
- Kathy Opperman, who will receive an additional $2,500 bonus donation for Pillars of Light and Love.
- Debbie Miller, who will receive an additional $1,250 bonus donation for kidsPACK.
- Lisa Hoeve, who will receive an additional $1,250 bonus donation for Hope Pkgs.