More than 500 Realtors fanned out April 11 across the Charlotte metro area to help 17 homeowners in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties. It was part of the sixth annual Realtors Care Day, an all-day home repair project to help some of the neediest families in the region.
The initiative organized by the Housing Opportunity Foundation, the charitable arm of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association, partnered with a number of civic groups to identify homeowners in need, including the elderly and the disabled. Many of the homeowners face significant health issues or have physical limitations that pose challenges to maintaining a safe and sustainable home.
Since 2009, when the first event was held, more than 3,000 Realtor volunteers have helped 129 families with home repairs. The foundation estimates that the volunteer efforts have contributed $800,000 to the community.
About 35 volunteers were at work early Friday morning at 1109 Opal St. in Charlotte, a shotgun-style house badly in need of renovation. The home, owned by James and Andrea Jones, had sustained major damage following a fire sparked by a wood-burning stove a year ago. The Jones family had stayed in the house for several months without heat and electricity before moving to a rental.
Habitat for Humanity had referred the family to the Housing Opportunity Foundation, said Kathy Rowan with the CRRA. On the roof of the structure, about a dozen Realtors equipped with hammers were laying the foundation of a new roof. Inside, demolition and removal of old flooring was taking place. In the crawl space, Realtors in full hazmat suits and face masks were belly down removing debris.
“It’s the one day we can give back to the community, “said Bill Shugart with My Townhome Realty. It’s his sixth time volunteering at Realtors Care Day, and he admits he isn’t really handy.
“Do I look like I know how to do this?” said Shugart, who was sporting a hot pink construction hat.
Fortunately, professional contractors are on hand at all the work sites to provide guidance and oversight.
“Our job is to place people in homes, and I like to think we’re putting displaced people back in their homes,” said Matthew Paul Brown, managing broker at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, as he was ripping out old linoleum. This was his sixth tour of duty also.
There were 60 Realtor volunteers working away at 315 Heflin St. in Charlotte’s Grier Heights community. By mid-morning the dumpster outside the home was already full of junk and debris, and the team was waiting for an empty dumpster delivery. A team lead by Baxter Hayes and Realtors from Cottingham Chalk Hayes was tasked with repairing extensive wood rot and termite damage to the old house, ridding the garden of debris, landscaping, and repainting the entire house.
The property is owned by 83-year-old James Phillips, who still works as a security guard for a living, when he’s not gardening and growing vegetables to share with his neighbors. He’s lived in the community since 1957. The property came to the attention of the foundation because of Crossroads Community Development, a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing the Grier Heights neighborhood.
“It’s a way to give back to our neighbors,” said Maren Brisson Kuester with Cottingham Chalk Hayes Realtors. “You can feel it and touch it.”
Realtor Care Day was conceived in part by the mission work that Joe Rempson, president of the CRRA and its Carolinas Multiple Listing Services Inc., did with youth from his church in the summer to help the elderly and those with limited income.
“It changed the focus of what the Housing Opportunity did in the community from promoting homeownership to helping struggling homeowners,” said Rempson.
“Realtors love it,” said Rempson of the volunteer activity. “More people show up to this event than to the annual holiday lunch we sponsor.”
He added: “People take pride in helping out. It gives Realtors a spiritual lift to create a positive impact.”