The importance of giving back to our communities is a year-long mantra heard throughout the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors membership. While being professional real estate advisors helping clients to purchase and sell property that will benefit their client’s financial futures, they also are dedicated to helping area charities and community endeavors to better the communities we live in.
George Lucas, Michigan Real Estate Broker RE/MAX Harbor Country in Union Pier, explained the reason for this membership determination, “When you are passionate about things that are important to you, you don’t think twice about throwing your heart, time, and financial resources into whatever it takes to get things done. I have always felt it was important to give back to my community and I have encouraged others to do so.”
Lucas has set the bar high for his fellow Realtors in the Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS both professionally and for community involvement. He was Realtor of the Year in 2013 and was president of the Association in 2017. He also was awarded Honorable Mention National Level Good Neighbor Award from the National Association of Realtors.
Serving on the Chikaming Open Lands (COL) board, Lucas used his real estate and business experience to successfully acquire land to preserve beautiful, open spaces in Berrien County especially alone the Lake Michigan shoreline. Through his leadership, COL grew from a small volunteer organization to a sophisticated land trust with four employees and 550 member households that has protected 1,575 acres of natural resources.
Lucas points to two projects for COL that he is most proud of his involvement, Cherry Beach and the more recent land that was acquired for the Chris Thompson Memorial Preserve. “Chris was just a great guy and friend. I wanted to do whatever it took using my business skills and financial input to make sure this area would always carry my friend’s name and set an example of Chris’s passion for his community involvement,” Lucas said.
Christine Norland, Realtor at Jaqua Realtors in Stevensville, maintains her Dietetic Registration (from her first career) in order to volunteer for Senior Nutrition Program to certify and review menus.
“I carve out as much time as possible to support Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan helping to feed the homebound seniors in our area,” stated Norland. “And for every one of my real estate sales, I make a donation toward Senior Nutrition Services. I also look forward to every year to participating in the March for Meals Jellybean fundraiser by selling Jelly beans to my community, neighborhood, family and friends. The contributions are so important to enable Meals on Wheels to serve older adults in our community so that no senior goes hungry and can stay healthy and in their homes.
Norland also teams with her fellow Jaqua Realtors Associates who participate in local endeavors such as the Feeding America Food Truck sponsored by Kinexus, Emergency Meal Packing sponsored Meals on Wheels of SWMI, United Way sponsored Rake-A-Difference Team, the annual Back to School Bash held at Benton Harbor High School where students are given backpacks filled with school supplies with Jaqua as an event sponsor.
Will Schauble, Realtor with @properties Michigan in New Buffalo, has been supporting the Michiana Humane Society for many years. He has hosted the Society's “Cocktails At The Grand Cottage” at his home for nine years. This event is the one of the most anticipated summer social events in southwest Michigan, with everyone enjoying cocktails, hor d'oeuvres and live auction overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan. In 2018, more than 500 people attended the event. As the sun set over Lake Michigan, the final tally this year came to over $170,000 raised to support the activities of the Michiana Humane Society. All proceeds go directly to the support of the animals. Schauble is also an active member of the Board of Directors of the Michiana Humane Society.
Every year for the past seven years, Kurt Hauseman, Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Buffalo and his wife Tracy have organized a Halloween party to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities. Thanks to the support of local donors, participants, and businesses, they were able to raise over $17,000 this year and over $70,000 since the event’s inception to ensure area children have full access to Ronald McDonald House services.
Hauseman stated, “Throughout our experience organizing this fundraiser, we have been surprised to find out how many members of the SWMI community have needed to use the Ronald McDonald House services, so we are so happy to have the opportunity to help! We look forward each year when planning this event to make it even more fun filled and a bigger success than previous years.
Alison Plaisier, Realtor with Cressy Everett Real Estate St. Joseph, hosted a golf outing this past August benefiting Beacon Children’s Hospital. Plaisier explains her enthusiasm for her event, “This non-profit organization serves children in our area who are sick and cannot be cared for in our local hospitals. We raised over $5,200 for the kid’s various needs, bills, therapy, toys, etc. To help offset the beginning costs of this event, my broker, Cressy & Everett Real Estate St. Joseph donated $1000.”
“As a personal touch I took dozens of golf balls to the children in the hospital to decorate for our golfers. It was inspirational to see these kids put their thoughts and feelings on such a small space and watch it make such a BIG impact on the golfers who received their art. There were pictures and words of encouragement such as “Hope”, “Believe”, and “Love”. Pictures of favorite sports teams, families, and home. It was a great event! I was thrilled to take the check and some stuffed animals to the Children’s Hospital to celebrate the success from the first time event.”
Plaisier continued, “I am looking forward to hosting this outing again in August 2019. Our goal next year is $10,000.
Anne Gain, Associate Broker with @properties in St. Joseph and member of the Association Board of Directors commented, “We want people of SWMI to know that Realtors do more for communities than just list & sell homes. Not only are our members in Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors active in their communities, our organization as whole has established a leadership goal to include strengthening our relationships with local and state government officials, townships and industry professionals.
“We are engaged, hands on, and increasingly instrumental in many community projects. Some of these include providing local grants for enhancing our communities, educational scholarships, supporting bills to protect and preserve property rights. Our board of directors and committee chairpersons are regularly meeting with legislators and individuals for direction and guidance,” stated Gain.
Alan Jeffries, Association Executive, Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS®, Inc. summed up his organization’s quest, “The face of real estate has changed dramatically over the past 10 years and the commitment of our members is more important than ever. Our board oversees and encourages all of our members to become engaged in their communities. Our Association wants to encourage the public to call or email with any questions they may have regarding the activities of Realtors.”
You can contact the Association at 269-983-6375 or through their website at www.swmar.com.
The Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS®, Inc. is a professional trade association for real estate licensees who are members of the National Association of REALTORS® and ancillary service providers for the real estate industry in Van Buren, Berrien and Cass Counties. The Association can be contacted at 269-983-6375 or through their website at www.swmar.com