Over the last 17 years, the Good Neighbor Awards have recognized REALTORSÂ®Â who dedicate countless volunteer hours to help others. The five individuals named as this yearâ€™s REALTORÂ® MagazineÂ Good Neighbor Award winners serve as an example of how RealtorsÂ®Â build and strengthen communities.
The 2016Â Good Neighbor AwardÂ winners are: Cindy Barrett, Keller Williams Realty, Spartanburg, S.C., co-founder of Christmas in Action; Susan Gruen Helsinger, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Merrick, N.Y., founder of The Jason F. Gruen Research Foundation; Ed Liebzeit, Jackson Hole Sothebyâ€™s International Realty, Jackson Hole, Wyo., board president of Community Safety Network; Wyn Ray, Coldwell Banker Burnet, Chaska, Minn., for his aid work in Ethiopia; and Sarah Sorenson, Whaleâ€™s Tail Realty Inc., Wailuku, Hawaii, founder of RealtorsÂ® Wishing Wellâ€¦for Maui Students.
“This year’s Good Neighbor Award winners have gone beyond the call of duty to improve communities around the U.S. and around the globe,” says National Association of RealtorsÂ® President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Margate, Fla. â€śThey touch the lives of those they serve in many positive ways while also maintaining successful careers in real estate and supporting their clients on a day-to-day basis.â€ť
Each of the five winners will receive a $10,000 grant for their cause and will be featured in the November/December issue ofÂ REALTORÂ®Â Magazine. The recipients will be presented with crystal trophies on Saturday, Nov. 5, during the 2016 REALTORSÂ®Â Conference & Expo in Orlando.
The Good Neighbor Awards have been granted annually since 2000 and are presented by NARâ€™sÂ REALTORÂ® Magazine. More than $1 million in grants have been awarded to the winnersâ€™ charities since the inaugural award.
Cindy Barrett,Â Keller Williams Realty, Spartanburg, S.C.
Cindy and her husband co-foundedÂ Christmas in ActionÂ in 1996 toÂ help low-income people in their community remedy health and safety issues such as leaky roofs, electricalÂ fire hazards and rotting floors. Since then, she has inspired thousands of volunteersâ€”including college students from around the country who flock to Spartanburg to use their time off from school in a meaningful wayâ€”to complete free home repairs on more than 800 homes for low-income seniors, people with disabilities and veterans.
Susan Gruen Helsinger,Â Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Merrick, N.Y.
After her teenage son died suddenly at school from an undiagnosed heart abnormality, Helsinger was determined to do something to prevent similar tragedies. She foundedÂ The Jason F. Gruen Research FoundationÂ and for 30 years, she has fought to bring awareness, fund research and equipment, and screen teen athletes so that those withÂ cardiac issues can seek treatment. Helsinger has raised nearly $2 million to fund efforts to understand these ailments and diagnose them early.
Ed Liebzeit,Â Jackson Hole Sothebyâ€™s International Realty, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Liebzeit is board president ofÂ Community Safety Network, which provides shelter and advocacy to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.Â Liebzeit, a Vietnam veteran, oversaw a strategic plan that emphasizes education and early intervention to encourage people in the community to recognize warning signs and refer potential victims. He has raised more than $450,000 since 2015.
Wyn Ray,Â Coldwell Banker Burnet, Chaska, Minn.
RayÂ and his wife serve a very remote and forgotten area of Ethiopia. A former teacher, Ray created a cooperative effort with villagers in Wekin to improve living conditions and educational opportunities.Â Since 2008, the Rays, now partnering with the nonprofitÂ New Covenant Foundation, have provided clean water and sanitation to 11,000 people.
Sarah Sorenson,Â Whaleâ€™s Tail Realty Inc., Wailuku, Hawaii
Sorenson founded RealtorsÂ® Wishing Well…for Maui Students in 2007 to support chronically underfunded publicÂ schools. Schools create wish lists of needed items, like school supplies, furniture and computer equipment, then Sorenson finds donors to supply them. Wishing Well serves 23,000 students in 35 schools in Maui County with donations valued at $1.5 million.
In addition to the winners, five RealtorsÂ® have been recognized as Good Neighbor Awards honorable mentions and will each receive $2,500 grants. Tommy Arnold, Keller Williams Louisville East, Louisville, Ky., founded the Feast On EqualityÂ fundraiser to support opportunities for LGBT students at the University of Louisville; Pam Harrison,Â RE/MAX Executive, Millersville, Md., enlists RealtorsÂ® to collect enormous amounts of food for the Anne Arundel County Food Bank; Danna Johnson,Â Crye-Leike, RealtorsÂ®, Jonesboro, Ark., has fulfilled wishes for 50 children with life-threatening medical conditions forÂ Make-A-WishÂ® Mid-South; Vince Mirabelli, RE/MAX First Choice Realty, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, has raised nearly $500,000 and personally funded a pediatric endowment forÂ Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation; and Rhonda and Jerry Overberg, RE/MAX Best Choice, St. Louis, Mo., founded the annual St. LouisÂ Night of SuperstarsÂ to recognize children with special needs.
During the month of September, the public cast nearly 42,000 votes for the 10 Good Neighbor Award finalists to determine who would be named the Web Choice winner. The Good Neighbor finalist with the most votes wasÂ Danna Johnson,Â Crye-Leike, RealtorsÂ®, Jonesboro, Ark.,Â who will receive an additional $1,000 bonus donation forÂ Make-A-WishÂ® Mid-SouthÂ courtesy ofÂ realtor.comÂ®, in addition to the $2,500 she earned for being a finalist. Johnson has raised more than $3 million.
For more information, visit www.realtor.org/gna.