Community Outreach Webinars

Community Outreach Webinars

Housing Opportunity Webinars

In partnership with National Housing Conference (NHC), Housing Opportunity webinars are designed to educate the REALTORS®  about affordable housing issues, policies and programs, and to help REALTORS® be better able to engage in the affordable housing issues in their communities.

Questions? Contact Wendy Penn at 202-383-7504.

Paycheck to Paycheck 2015
This free webinar demonstration of the National Housing Conference’s online, interactive Paycheck to Paycheck database. Paycheck to Paycheck uses data from the first quarter of 2015 to examine the gap between wages and the housing costs, both rental and ownership, in 208 U.S. metro areas. The webinar will also include a discussion of key findings from the 2015 Paycheck to Paycheck report, which focused on the housing affordability challenges of workers in occupations commonly filled by millennials. 

Back to School: Making the Link Between Housing and Education
This webinar described the key links between housing and education and highlighted ways people are working to improve educational outcomes for children through housing and community development policies and programs.

Housing Counseling and Returning Home Buyers
Navigating the housing market and preparing financially for homeownership can be a daunting process, not only for those new to the housing market, but especially for previous homeowners who have experienced a foreclosure or were negatively affected in the housing market downtown.  Housing counseling is an effective tool to help people financially prepare to buy a home or re-enter the housing market after a foreclosure, providing advice to potential homebuyers on repairing or protecting their credit and assisting them in preparing for mortgage application, budget planning, and foreclosure prevention.

Local Affordable Housing Policymaking and Advocacy
Key affordable housing resources available from the National Housing Conference (NHC) and the Center for Housing Policy were discussed using real-world examples. Panelists discussed how these resources can be used to document and describe local affordable housing challenges, to communicate persuasively about housing needs, to identify promising local affordable housing solutions and to present affordable housing strategies to local stakeholders.

Housing and Older Adults
Experts in the area of housing and older adults presented on housing needs of the growing older adult population, livable communities policies that address the safety and quality of neighborhoods, and programs that combine housing and services to enable aging in place. 


Placemaking Webinars

The Placemaking Webinar Series provides more in depth information on the various types of Placemaking and how REALTORS® are involved in Placemaking activities in their communities.

Questions? Contact Holly Moskerintz at 202-383-1157.

REALTORS® Engage in Placemaking
Looking to become engaged in a placemaking project in your neighborhood but just don’t know what to do or where to begin?  Wondering what placemaking is all about and why it matters to REALTORS®? Learn how four local REALTOR® Associations used Placemaking Grants to build projects in their community. Association staff and REALTORS® will tell us about their projects; how they and their partners were engaged in the projects; and the outcomes and benefits not only to the community and REALTOR® brand. Please note that at about 49 minutes in there is an audio pause of about 1 minute.  The webinar is not over.

Make your Community a More Walkable Place
Walkable communities—a community in which residents can get to grocery stores, shops, schools, work, cafes, and parks by walking, biking or taking public transit—are becoming the latest trend in real estate. REALTORS® need to be aware of how walkable communities may affect their business and the future of real estate. Get the details on what makes a great walkable community; walkability’s impact on real estate; the demand for walkable communities; Walk Scores and MLS; and one community’s strategy to become more walkable. 

REALTORS® in Action
The Placemaking Grant has been up and running for almost two years and we have approved over $300,000 in projects in over 30 states. Many of these projects have been completed and the communities, as well as the REALTOR® Associations who have worked on these placemaking projects, are seeing outcomes. Join us to hear about the placemaking projects four local REALTOR® Associations participated in including a description of their project; involvement of the association, members and partners; and outcomes and community responses. You just may get an idea for a placemaking project in your community.

Reactivating Vacant Properties into Community Spaces
Is your community faced with blighted and vacant properties that are disrupting the neighborhood’s sense of community and lowering property values?  This webinar focuses on how to address vacant properties, specifically vacant lots.  After a brief overview of vacant properties and the negative impact on a community, you will hear from several organizations on how they are transforming vacant and abandoned lots into community open spaces and vibrant gathering places.  

Streets as Places
Streets make up more than 80 percent of the public space in our downtowns and no public space works harder than our streets.  But, streets and sidewalks need to do more than just move cars. They need to be designed to meet the needs of people and create great places where people meet, sit, socialize, relax, wander about, play and more. Find out how to transform the streets and sidewalks in your community into great places with a variety of tools including street painting, parklets, plazas, block parties, seating and other activities. 

Community Outreach Leads to Commercial Revitalization
Discover how engaging communities in downtown revitalization can lead to leasing/sales of vacant buildings and other positive impacts on commercial real estate development. Targeted efforts involving REALTOR® Associations, REALTORS® and community organizations, including how a Better Block event, a Main Street® planning approach and a tour of vacant properties have resulted in positive economic changes and are strengthening communities. 

Revitalizing with Main Street®
Main Street® is a unique economic development tool that enables communities to revitalize downtown and neighborhood business districts by leveraging local assets. This approach focuses on traditional commercial districts in a community and can help address vacant properties and other revitalization challenges. Get an overview of Main Street® and hear from REALTORS® who have initiated a Main Street® program in their communities to help revitalize their downtowns.  

How to Build a Better Block
Learn the ins and outs of a Build a Better Block project which involves a group of community stakeholders and volunteers organizing and making visible changes to a place over a day or two such as cleaning up litter, planting flowers, installing benches, and maybe launching temporary businesses called pop-ups in vacant storefronts. 

Lighter, Quicker Cheaper
Find out how to take small, incremental, low cost steps to quickly turn your community’s vision into reality and build momentum for further improvements.” Lighter Quicker Cheaper is an approach involving several small projects in a neighborhood where, taken together, will make the neighborhood a better place to live, work and play. These hands-on projects can be proposed and finished in months or weeks.

Smart Growth Webinars

Public/Private Partnerships: Complete Streets & Large-Scale Development Webinar
Private development projects and large-scale land use programs can play an important role in creating new, healthy, and equitable Complete Streets. How can developers use healthy and Complete Streets design principles and public/private partnerships to achieve community goals? And what are the opportunities and challenges public and private partners face? The Public/Private Partnerships: Complete Streets & Large-Scale Development webinar hosted by National Complete Streets Coalition and co-hosted by the National Association of REALTORS®. 

Download the PDF of the presentation

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Boise Regional REALTORS® Bring Resources, Expertise, and Motivation to Renovation of Urban Corridor

Where necessary civic improvement projects were concerned, the Orchard Street corridor in Boise, Idaho, was the proverbial elephant in the room: a problem that needed fixing, but for which the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) had neither the community buy-in nor the necessary financial resources to pursue. Orchard Street is a busy, four lane road without a center turn lane, inadequate crossing options for foot traffic, limited-to-no parking, and missing sidewalks in a number of areas—making it unsafe for motorists and pedestrians. The side streets off Orchard are mostly residential, and the street itself is lined with many local businesses and culturally diverse restaurants and markets. When the Boise Regional REALTORS® received a Smart Growth Action Grant, it spurred solutions for a more pedestrian-friendly Orchard Street and helped initiate much-needed community collaboration.

“Although municipalities everywhere are recognizing the value of walkable communities,” explains Soren Dorius, Director of Government Affairs for the 4,300-member Boise Regional REALTORS® (BRR), “the situation in Boise is complicated by the fact that its roads are governed by the county through ACHD, which oversees road planning, construction and maintenance.”  So, while parts of Boise (like Orchard Street) are in dire need of improvement, the city does not have the jurisdiction to improve them, creating a unique and complicated relationship between city planners and ACHD.

In January, armed with a $15,000 Smart Growth Action Grant, supplemented with $2,000 of its own, BRR began meeting with Boise city planning staff to get the ball rolling. “The issue was daunting at the outset, but once we convinced the city staff that a collaborative walkability study was a worthwhile investment, they jumped on board and agreed on Orchard Street as the focus site,” says Dorius. 

“Our first priority was to get the right city and county staff sitting at the table, focused on Orchard Street, and in agreement that something needed to be done in accordance with fundamental walkability principles,” he reveals. A second priority was to determine the needs and wants of community stakeholders, including neighborhood associations, residents and local businesses. “For this project to work, collaboration and input from these key partners was absolutely critical,” said Dorius.

Walkability expert Dan Burden and his firm, Blue Zones, were contracted to conduct a two-day WALKshop program in mid-July for Orchard Street representatives and Boise and ACHD staff.  On the first day, Burden and a colleague led a “windshield tour” of the corridor from a shuttle bus provided by the city, giving participants an overview of the challenges. Following the tour, Blue Zones conducted focus groups, and that evening, initial findings were presented to an appreciative Boise City Council. “The information gleaned from our focus groups was incredibly insightful and brought to light a number of areas for common interests and potential collaboration,” said Dorius.

The second day featured a “walk audit,” with the consultants leading groups of participants down both sides of Orchard Street, pointing out the variety of pedestrian dangers. “It was very effective, having key players feel the insecurity of being a pedestrian on this really busy stretch of road,” says Dorius. “The narrowness (or non-existence) of sidewalks, the proximity to car traffic, the lack of curbs and the difficulty of crossing at regular intervals made everyone pretty nervous and one could only imagine how that might feel in a wheelchair, or pushing a stroller!” 

After a lunch provided by BRR, Burden presented the concept of “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” traffic calming and walkability improvements. Suggestions ranging from strategic landscaping, to more crosswalks, to flags that heighten pedestrian visibility in crosswalks, to painted curb extensions, could all have an immediate and significant effect on Orchard Street. That evening, the WALKshop findings were presented to the ACHD.  “It was night-and-day,” reports Dorius. “The complex and somewhat strained relations between city, community stakeholders and county had been smoothed over by thoughtful collaboration, and everyone emerged wanting to work together on this shared challenge.  Our consultant’s expertise, particularly his before-and-after examples from elsewhere in the country, left our WALKshop participants really excited and wanting more,” he adds.

Dorius will be revisiting the ideas from the WALKshop with city and ACHD staff to determine what, realistically, can be accomplished in the near future. Meanwhile, he, the Boise city comprehensive planning manager and a participating city council member have held a forum for BRR members to report on the success and findings of the WALKshop. BRR is also overseeing the creation of a new Orchard Street Business Alliance formed by participants at the event. “Thanks to this grant from the REALTOR® Party,” he says, “Boise Regional REALTORS® is positioned at the forefront of this urban corridor’s future, and we’re seen as a valuable partner in the achievement of healthy and successful communities.”

To learn more about how Boise Regional REALTORS® are helping make local thoroughfares safer, more convenient and more attractive, contact Soren Dorius, Director of Government Affairs, at 208-947-7237.

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Placemaking Program & Grant

Placemaking is a way to make your community a better place to live by transforming  unused sites and “eyesores” into welcoming destinations accessible to everyone in a community. Placemaking can be undertaken by anyone in a community but what is often needed is someone to take the lead or initiative. Who better to do this than a REALTOR® Association, and its members, as REALTORS® are already engaged in their communities and know the neighborhoods and the properties, and are likely to know where to focus efforts to enhance a place.

Placemaking Program Resources

The REALTOR® Party’s Placemaking program provides technical and financial assistance to help REALTOR® Associations become engaged in placemaking in their communities. Available resources include the:

  • Placemaking Guide for REALTOR® Associations
    Learn the details of Placemaking; the kinds of projects Placemaking entails and how to organize them; and where to go for assistance and resources.
  • Spaces to Places Blog
    See and learn about Placemaking projects in action across the country.
  • Placemaking Webinars
    The Placemaking Webinars provide more in-depth information on the various types of Placemaking and how REALTORS® are involved in Placemaking activities in their communities.
  • Better Block Guide for Associations
    A detailed overview of what a Better Block is and information to help you and your partners plan and organize a Better Block. Ideas generated at a Better Block may lead to permanent Placemaking projects.
  • Smart Growth Action Grant 
    Fund planning and community input activities related to Placemaking and land-use policies, such as Better Block events, Placemaking visioning and Main Street® analyses.

Questions? Contact Holly Moskerintz at 202-383-1157.

Placemaking Grant

The Placemaking grant is only available to state and local REALTOR® Associations.

The Placemaking Grant funds the creation of new public spaces and destinations in a community. The grant focuses on “lighter, cheaper, quicker” placemaking projects, which can be built under a year and cost less than $200,000.

Review the Placemaking criteria below before applying for a Placemaking Grant.


Questions? Contact Holly Moskerintz at 202-383-1157.

Grant Funding

The Placemaking Grant is available for up to $3,000, depending on engagement of REALTOR® Association, and its members, impact on community and meeting of all project criteria listed below. An association can be approved for up to two grants per year. The second grant application will not be reviewed until the project evaluation form and “after” photo from the first project are submitted. Associations will not be able to submit another application for one year if funds were not used as described in application.

Application Process

The online application can be submitted at anytime through October 15, 2018.

  • Take a photo(s) of the current site and submit it as the “before” photo.
  • Calculate or obtain the project budget (needs to be $200,000 or under) and submit it with the application.
  • Develop or obtain the project’s design or concept plan and submit it with the application.
    • If you have problems uploading the files, you can email them.
  • Staff will schedule a brief phone call to discuss project and application.
    • You may need to provide additional information.
    • You can have your partners on the call.
  • Staff will then review the application after all required information is received.
  • Staff will contact the association within 10 days after the phone call.

Project Criteria

The Placemaking Grant can only be used to fund projects that meet the following criteria:

New Public Space Created
Types of projects funded are parks, pocket parks, plazas, parklets, alley activations, trails, dog parks, play/fitness areas, community gardens. See the types of activities the grant does not fund.

Association and Member Engagement
Placemaking projects offer an opportunity for REALTOR® Associations and REALTORS® to engage in goodwill efforts in a community. An association, and its members, need to be involved in the planning, designing, funding and/or building of the project. Maximum grant amount is awarded to reflect projects that are association-led or projects where the REALTOR® Association is a main partner.

Mulit-Functional & Community-Orientated
Make sure your project meets the following criteria:

  • Benefits everyone in the community and includes amenities that everyone can enjoy
  • Compliant with city permitting and zoning
  • Accessible to the whole community and all residents
  • Accessible all or most of the time
  • Provides at least 10 things to do or 10 reasons to be there

Examples of Placemaking Amenities

Project Completion

All projects must be completed within one year of the grant application approval for grant funds to be disbursed. Within one month of project completion, the following should be completed:

  • Email photo(s) of the completed project to Holly Moskerintz.
  • Submit the evaluation form outlining impact of project (i.e. use/visits by the community; media coverage; other community projects, community response, outcomes, etc.).
  • Celebrate your success. We encourage you to consider having a “ribbon cutting” ceremony or similar event and inviting members, the community, stakeholders and media.
  • Write a blog post to be included in the Spaces to Places blog. Posts should be no more than 300 words and should include photos and/or videos.

Disbursement of Funds

Funds will be distributed as follows:

  • Request check request via email to Holly Moskerintz.
    • Include to whom the check should be made out to and a mailing address.
    • Checks can be payable to your association or board, or an organization (we will need the Tax ID number, phone number and copy of their W-9) but not to a government agency.
  • Submit proof of how funds were spent.
    • Acceptable forms of proof include an invoice, signed contract, receipts and cancelled checks.
  • The request for reimbursement must be made within 1 year from when the application was approved.
  • Once all documentation is received, NAR will process the check request. It usually takes 10-15 working days for the check to be processed and mailed.
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Small Connecticut Boards Make Big Impact with Placemaking Grants

The 650-member Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS® created an inviting ‘pocket park’ on an unused downtown corner. The 156-member Newtown Board of REALTORS® helped establish an attractive and productive ‘Fruit Trail’ of flowering trees and perennials along a recreational path.

The Executive Officer of the REALTOR® boards of Greater Fairfield and Newtown, Connecticut declares that “Placemaking Grants are one of the best things that the National Association of REALTORS® has done for the local boards!” Frances Cormier-Carroll ought to know:  both her boards made use of this small-scale, intensely local REALTOR® Party program to enhance their respective communities with inviting spaces last year.  In fact, they’re both applying for grants to fund new projects this year, and she anticipates the REALTOR®-supported placemaking activities will continue in this corner of Connecticut well in to the future.

The Placemaking Grant program helps REALTOR® associations plan, organize and build new public spaces in their local communities. “Not only do these activities help the towns and the REALTORS® by generating positive exposure,” says Cormier-Carroll, “but the national association is really putting resources back in to the country through its local boards. Our members are proud of that, and our communities are grateful.” She notes that the grant application process is user-friendly, and that the NAR staff provides invaluable assistance and advice as the boards have prepared their project proposals.

She credits the presidents of both boards with the energetic leadership it has taken to make their respective projects happen:

Last summer, the 650-member Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS® (GFBOR) partnered with the Town of Fairfield to create a ‘pocket park’ on a small plot of unused public land at a downtown crossroads. 2016 President Stephanie Barnes, together with
co-chairmen Michael Traum and Kristen DeLaurentiis, approached the town to develop the project and identify the site. With a $3,000 grant from the REALTOR® Party, numerous planning meetings and about 100 man-hours of labor from the Fairfield Department of Public Works, an inviting and attractive park emerged, featuring new trees and plantings, a winding brick pathway, and three benches with plaques identifying the REALTORS® as the donors. In his remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in October, Fairfield’s First Selectman, a former REALTOR® and Past-President of GFBOR, noted the benefit of amenities like the new pocket park, in terms of both quality-of-life and property values.

The 156-member Newtown Board of REALTORS® used its $1,500 Placemaking Grant to help establish a “Fruit Trail” along an existing recreational path on the 185-acre campus of a former hospital that the town has taken over for public/private use and development. The Newtown Fruit Trail connects the community with nature, and its young plantings will feed the land and the people, as well as attract bees, birds, and butterflies. One July morning last year, board President Barbara Frey and seven of her REALTOR® colleagues actively joined the effort, mulching, weeding, and planting fruit trees and perennials. Not only did the REALTOR® team contribute the grant and considerable elbow grease, notes Cormier-Carroll, but the funds from the REALTOR® Party were spent at a local nursery, supporting the local economy.

“These boards, Newtown especially, are on the small side, but their members are deeply involved and committed to improving their communities,” she says, adding that both of the placemaking projects have also served to strengthen the bonds between REALTORS® and local leaders. “There’s been a great community response to these placemaking projects, from neighborly notes to recognition from officials. We are so grateful to NAR and the Placemaking Grant program for making this  possible.”

To learn more about how smaller associations are making a big impact with the REALTOR® Party’s Placemaking Grants, contact Frances Cormier-Carroll, Executive Officer of the Greater Fairfield Board of REALTORS® and the Newtown Board of REALTORS® at 203-255-0497.

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Land Use Initiative Lends ‘Horsepower’ to Greater Northwest Indiana Zoning Challenge

The Greater Northwest Indiana Association of REALTORS® (GNIAR) has been successful in tapping in to various REALTOR® Party resources in the past few years, including Placemaking Grants, RPAC Major Investor Event-Based Fundraising Grants and Level III Smart Growth Action Grant that is now supporting a county-level Parks Master Plan Update.  But when GNIAR Chief Operating Officer Joe Wszolek read in a local paper about proposed commercial zoning regulations in the town of Munster this past February, he knew a different kind of support was needed, and fast. 

The ordinance was put forth in response to the sensitive issue of a commuter rail line coming from downtown Chicago to Munster, IN, which Wszolek describes as one of the region’s premier communities.  While the council member who introduced it was clearly trying to keep Munster from becoming the same commercial franchise as other towns on the line, the REALTORS® recognized it as artificially restricting free enterprise.  “The intention was understandable,” says Wszolek, “but its effect would ultimately be negative, rather than positive.  It would be detrimental to the mom-and-pop businesses that it was trying to protect.”

Wszolek had read about the REALTOR® Party’s Land Use Initiative program, and immediately contacted Maggie McShane, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at his state association, who helped to get the ball rolling.  Once the request was granted, GNIAR sent the proposed ordinance to Robinson & Cole, the firm retained by the National Association of REALTORS® to review and comment on land use issues.  “We were on a really tight deadline, and I didn’t even know if it would be possible,” says Wszolek.  “Not only were they incredibly responsive, but they highlighted areas of concern that I hadn’t even recognized as issues.”  In the meantime, GNIAR reached out to the local homebuilders’ association and a network of statewide retail businesses, to join together in voicing opposition to the ordinance.

Wszolek presented the Town Council with a letter from 2017 GNIAR President Nathan Reeder, clearly stating the association’s concern that the proposed regulations would have a negative impact on property values and real estate marketability in Munster; as well as expressing GNIAR’s desire to help the council and other stakeholders to develop an alternative course of action.  He followed up with the memorandum provided by Robinson & Cole, detailing its findings: the first section outlined various grounds on which the proposal could be susceptible to legal challenge; the second raised issues that could be harmful to the town, should it adopt the proposed ordinance.    

At the next Munster Town Council meeting, much to Wszolek’s surprise, the council member who had introduced the ordinance made a motion to reject it, citing objections from the REALTORS® and numerous business owners.  She took the opportunity to comment that her proposal wasn’t intended to be ‘anti-real estate,’ but, rather, an attempt to create the best possible atmosphere in Munster.  The proposed ordinance was defeated by a unanimous vote.

Says Wszolek, “It was the best possible outcome, and we couldn’t have done it without the high quality review and technical support provided by the REALTOR® Party.  We were able to maintain a helpful, non-adversarial stance, and our involvement was well received by the Town Council.”  As the GNIAR logo says, he adds, “We are the voice for real estate in northwest Indiana: we have all sorts of resources available, and we’re happy to sit down and craft a solution for the benefit of all.”

To learn more about how the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of REALTORS® is protecting property values and the marketability of real estate in its region, contact Chief Operating Officer, Joe Wszolek, at 219-795-3600.

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Washington REALTORS® Help Revitalize Downtown Bellingham

In 2015, a neighborhood in the city of Bellingham, Washington, received a few fairly modest, highly creative additions intended to improve the quality of life and build community. They included a painted concrete ‘soapbox’ for anyone to preach from, and a hanging garden adding vibrant greenery to the side of a multi-storey car-park: signs of life that signaled the slow but steady revival of the city’s downtown district, the vitality of which had been drained by the arrival of shopping malls in outlying areas several decades ago.

The 534-member Whatcom County Association of REALTORS® (WCAR) had supported the placemaking competition that brought these colorful improvements to the city streets. The following year, in 2016, a Level 3 Smart Growth Action Grant kicked its involvement up a notch: as a major sponsor of a placemaking event that drew 24 competitors and more than 500 community members, resulting in five new projects and paving the way for even more. WCAR positioned itself as a distinctly positive force in Bellingham’s urban renewal.     

WCAR Executive Officer Perry Eskridge credits Past President Cerise Noah as being the one with the vision to engage the REALTORS® in revitalizing the city center. “She was at a Downtown Bellingham Plan meeting when the placemaking concept was pitched, and recognized it as a good project for the REALTORS®,” says Eskridge. “She also realized that if we succeeded in getting a REALTOR® Party grant, we’d need a community partner to help implement the program, so she forged a partnership with Sustainable Connections, a highly effective local organization that got the job done, and made it great fun for the community.”

Rose Lathrop, Sustainable Connections’ Green Building & Smart Growth Manager, organized a colorful competition that attracted dozens of proposals to add life to Bellingham’s North State Street corridor, a high-profile downtown location suffering from outdated infrastructure and lack of public funding. The event was called “KAPOW!” and the super-hero theme packed a punch of creative energy. Eight projects, chosen for their creativity, innovation, potential to be realized and social impact, were presented to an enthusiastic crowd at the Mount Baker Theater in a rapid-fire pecha kucha format, which allows each competitor just under seven minutes and twenty PowerPoint slides to convey a concept. 

WCAR 2016 President MaryKay Robinson, who served on the committee that chose the finalists, notes how fun it was to watch the parade of dynamic, well-organized proposals, of which three were granted the Mayor’s Choice Award, the juried Superhero Award and the People’s Choice Award. “We had funding budgeted for those three awards,” she explains, “but the great thing was that two audience members felt compelled to fund two others that had appealed most to them. So we actually had five winners!” Among them are a coin-operated all-weather dance space; a giant sidewalk hopscotch game; and a bicycle maintenance, map and repair station. WCAR opted to finance the State Street light installation, part of a solar system scale model that will bring a more human, pedestrian element down the length of the North State Street corridor, says Eskridge.      

Lathrop agrees that the event was a tremendous success, and reports that the process has also inspired the city of Bellingham to make additional investments on State Street, including re-striping for reduced lane widths and traffic calming measures. Based on the strength of the 2016 event, she is now planning a KAPOW! placemaking event for this year focused on Birchwood, a  neighborhood separated from the rest of the city by both economic barriers and physical divides, notably a ravine and an airport.

Beyond the enlivening benefits for the city, says Eskridge, the placemaking events and projects shine a positive light on the REALTORS® as they invest back in to the community. “It’s good to be a part of the good things happening here in Bellingham, and we’re very grateful to the REALTOR® Party for its support of our efforts.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Whatcom County are helping to revitalize areas of downtown Bellingham, Washington, contact Perry Eskridge, Executive Officer of the Whatcom County Association of REALTORS®, at 360-671-5477, or WCAR 2016 President MaryKay Robinson at 360-734-7500.

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Medina County Ohio REALTORS® Improve, Invest in Community with REALTOR® Party Grants

With nearly 800 members keeping their ears to the ground, the Medina County Board of REALTORS® (MCBOR) never has to wonder what the needs of the community might be. In 2016, it met three such needs with funding assistance from the REALTOR® Party’s Housing Opportunity Grants and a Placemaking Grant. Ranging from housing for disabled veterans, to vegetable gardens for low-income citizens, to improving a bike path for the public, these projects demonstrate the deep level of investment these MCBOR REALTOR® professionals have in their community. 

Sherry Stell, MCBOR’s Association Executive, explains that her organization has strong Housing Opportunity and Legislative Committees, but that its community service issues emerge organically, without any systematic approach. “If the need is there, members will call it to our attention, and we’ll try to find out if it is possible to obtain a grant within the REALTOR® Party program,” said Stell. For example, a MCBOR committee member who serves as a trustee of one of Medina County’s townships recognized an opportunity for the REALTORS® to contribute to public fitness when a former golf course in his township was being converted to a public park and required funding to transform golf cart paths to mountain bike paths.  The Placemaking Grant program does not fund repair work on existing paths, but this fall, MCBOR succeeded in securing a $1,300 grant for a park map and information display case branded with the Medina County Board of REALTOR®S name and REALTOR® logo, along with a “Saddle Buddy” mountain bike repair and cleaning station.

Another significant community service project for MCBOR came about when one of its members handled the sale of a property to an organization that planned to convert the home to housing for disabled veterans requiring round-the-clock care. “That’s how we found out about Newbridge Veterans Place,” says Stell. “Our membership is more than happy to support our veterans.  Newbridge Veterans Place became the beneficiary of our Annual Charity Bowl-a-Thon, which attracted more than 140 participants and raised more than $3,000.” Along with a $5,000 NAR Housing Opportunity Grant and three REALTOR® Care Days, MCBOR volunteers donated their time and skill to help the organization get the property up and running. “So much was needed in this seven-bedroom home to get it ready to house low income/homeless and disabled veterans,” notes Stell. “Our members helped with painting, hanging blinds and setting up the kitchen, in addition to purchasing and moving furniture into the home.” 

Yet another project arose because of MCBOR’s longstanding support of Medina Creative Housing, an organization that promotes the development and management of permanent affordable housing for people with disabilities. In the past, the REALTORS® have received a REALTOR® Party Housing Opportunity Grant to support the programmatic goals of the charity’s Life Skills Lodge as a comprehensive occupational therapy environment. “This year,” reports Stell, “they wanted help installing raised garden beds, to help residents to grow their own produce and sell the excess at the farmers’ market for income. Our community is so fortunate to have this amazing organization, and this project, in particular, helps the broader population by providing fresh locally grown vegetables. It’s a real win-win.” On a hot day this summer, a team of MCBOR members got together and met at the site to build the garden beds, with materials paid for by a Placemaking Grant. As always, Stell put the word out among her affiliate members, who not only pitched in to help, but provided coffee, donuts and pizza. “Our members are very supportive of each other in these efforts,” she adds, “whether it’s with hard labor or coffee service.  Knowing that the REALTOR® Party is behind them with all its resources, makes all of us feel like we really can make a difference when these needs arise.”    

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Medina County, Ohio are making an impact on their community with the help of the REALTOR® Party, contact Sherry Stell, Association Executive of the Medina County Board of REALTORS®, at 330-722-1000.

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Hopkinsville, KY Goes to the Dogs with the Help of a Placemaking Grant

You might say the city of Hopkinsville, Kentucky has gone to the dogs—and dogs and humans alike, from several surrounding counties, are delighted!  On June 2, 2016, the Hopkinsville Dog Park was opened by an official ribbon cutting ceremony, with plenty of dogs in attendance, ready to romp.  It was all the idea of the 56-member Hopkinsville Christian & Todd County Association of REALTORS® (HCCBOR,) and a Placemaking Micro-Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped make it a reality.


“We sure do appreciate the National Association of REALTORS® for the grants that have helped us to help our community,” says Gay Wilson, Association Executive of HCCBOR.  Prior to the Placemaking Grant, the REALTOR® Party had provided HCCBOR with Housing Opportunity Grants to help Hopkinsville built a more stable workforce, and to promote the city to military families living at nearby Fort Campbell. “We’ve also had the support of some really good city council members recently, and our mayor, who have been focused on helping Hopkinsville grow,” adds Wilson.  The dog park, she notes, is the result of a huge community effort.

Two years ago, when HCCBOR decided to propose the plan to the city, Wilson and her 2015 Board President, Bruce Smiley, and several other members prepared by hitting the road to visit successful dog parks in nearby municipalities.  Then they returned home and formed a task force that included volunteers from the local chapter of the Humane Society and other members of the community to receive recommendations and advice about what would make a good park.  They took their proposal to the city council.  The property was donated by the water company.  The Parks & Recreation Department would be responsible for the park’s upkeep and maintenance.  The City budgeted $50,000 for the project; HCCBOR would provide another $25,000. 

The $2,300 REALTOR® Party Placemaking Micro-Grant got things rolling by funding a dedicated Facebook page, which became a primary fundraising platform as well as a place to share information and progress; the grant also supported the cost of fences and signs.  HCCBOR raised close to $20,000, so far, to create an environment that is specifically for dogs, but which all visitors can enjoy.  There are separate runs and play areas for small, medium and large dogs; there are drinking fountains (human and canine), trashcans, benches and restrooms. “Our community responded so enthusiastically to our request for financial help to make this project a success,” says Wilson.  Donations came from the water company, animal hospitals, veterinarians and many other individuals who were eager for a dog park in the area.  

One of the best fundraisers, she says, was the “Mutt Strutt,” a one-mile dog walk that attracted about 150 canine participants one Saturday morning.  HCCBOR sold t-shirts, sacked lunches that included a hotdog, chips, cookies and water.  There were goods provided by pet shops, and they also handed out “doggy bags” filled with coupons and items donated by area businesses, while they lasted.  “It was such a fun day,” says Wilson, who adds that they’ve decided to make it an annual event, to continue raising money for more play features, like jumping hoops and a water feature for the dogs.         

The new dog park is located right at a trailhead of the new Hopkinsville Greenway System, a six-mile rail trail that brings more fresh air-seekers to the amenities of the dog park.  Each time Wilson brings her Great Dane, Maggie, to the park, she’s amazed by the number of visitors.  “It’s a real community gathering place.  People, as well as dogs, are connecting with each other and proving what a great asset it is.”  HCCBOR reached out to contacts at Fort Campbell about the new park, and families from the base have been making the 20-minute drive with their dogs.  “The more we can do to make Hopkinsville a better place to live,” says Wilson, “the better it is for all of us.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Hopkinsville, Kentucky are improving their community for four-legged friends and the people who love them, contact Gay Wilson, Association Executive of the Hopkinsville Christian & Todd County Board of REALTORS®, at or 270-885-8365.

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Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS®

Tuesday mornings typically find Wilmington, North Carolina REALTORS® taking care of administrative business and connecting with colleagues, but this past April 5, 580 members of the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS® (WRAR) got out of the office for its second annual REALTOR® Action Day—aka “RAD.”  Some of the REALTOR®-volunteers made music at local senior centers; others planted sea oats and marsh grass to stem erosion along vulnerable coastlines; still more cleaned up and landscaped a handful of county parks.  On the grounds of St. John’s Episcopal Church, nearly 100 WRAR members built a sizeable community garden, and installed two park benches and a tool shed, using a $3,000 Placemaking Micro-Grant from the REALTOR® Party. 

Community Garden Time Lapse from WRAR on Vimeo.

The eleven raised garden beds will be planted and cared for by members of the community and the church, including children at the St. John’s preschool.  The produce they raise will become nutritious ingredients at the Good Shepherd Center, a downtown soup kitchen serving more than 150 neighbors a day.

The garden project, along with the 18 other activities that took place on REALTOR® Action Day, was organized by WRAR’s energetic Community Affairs Committee, who motivated, mobilized and coordinated all the preparation that took place before the volunteers arrived on site for their two-hour events.  The morning’s work strengthened bonds between the REALTORS® and the local non-profits and municipal agencies involved, including the New Hanover County Department of Parks & Gardens.

To find a good location for the community garden, says WRAR President Don Harris, the committee tapped into its relationships with community gardener groups and shops, who helped to identify plots of land that were ‘shovel ready.’ “We’re not a small community,” he explains, “but we’re tight-knit!”  Since churches tend to be central to most communities in the area, their available land has been ideal for this use.  Last year, at Devon United Methodist Church, WRAR built a similar community garden that is maintained by Burmese refugees.  This particular demographic, explains Harris, not only values the ability to grow the produce particular to their homeland, that which southerners understand as ‘comfort food,’ but they also appreciate the link to the agrarian life they left behind.  Both gardens were installed in collaboration with Wilmington Green, a local non-profit organization.

The gardens are intended to be both educational and beneficial, says Harris. People walking dogs and strollers, or jogging or biking along cross city trails, see the gardens, enjoy the greenery and spread the word.  “These projects truly connect everyone,” he notes, adding that it makes sense that REALTORS®, natural networkers, are spearheading efforts that create such connectivity within the community.  He also points out that REALTOR® Action Day coincides with Wilmington’s annual Azalea Festival, which begins the following day.  “The day was perfectly timed to elevate Wilmington’s curb-appeal, and beautify our communities for the national stage.”

The REALTOR® Action Day projects go a long way toward maintaining WRAR’s reputation for civic good in the community, between the high-visibility teal REALTOR® t-shirts worn by the hundreds of volunteers, with red tees worn by the REALTOR® Commercial Alliance members and the significant media coverage that the projects attracted.  Even City of Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, who happens to be a REALTOR®, took a good-humored turn shoveling horse “fertilizer” at the new garden. Harris said they hope to mobilize 750 members in 2017.

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Wilmington are serving their community in matters far beyond real estate, contact Shane Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS®, at 910-202-1586.

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Plymouth and South Shore Association of REALTORS® Plant a Sense of Community with Garden Project

The 2,500-member Plymouth and South Shore Association of REALTORS® (PASS) has a strong and vital charitable arm that is accustomed to raising funds and writing checks, but this past April 16, and again on Earth Day, about twenty members couldn’t resist an opportunity to give back to the community by getting out in the fresh air and getting their hands dirty—literally. 


Using a $2,500 Placemaking Micro-Grant from the REALTOR® Party, PASS members helped to build an organic community garden at the Davis-Douglas Farm site of the Wildlands Trust, a rural property in Plymouth that has been conserved and transformed into a public gathering space.  Jean Sawtelle, Communications Director of PASS, explains that the idea of applying for the grant was proposed by REALTOR® Bill Keohan, who was already involved with the Wildlands Trust.  Looking into the viability of the project, Sawtelle determined that it was an ideal fit for the REALTOR® Party’s Placemaking grant program, and received approval of the PASS Government Affairs Committee to submit the application. 

The grant supported the construction of multiple raised garden beds, which were built over the course of two days by Wildland Trust volunteers and about 20 PASS members, including CEO Rachel Tristano and members of the Government Affairs Committee, the Community Service Committee and the newly formed Young Professionals Network. A dedicated “demonstration” bed has been built in a special educational programming area, where the public will be able to see exhibits and learn gardening skills.  The remaining beds will be available for public gardening, and the community will be encouraged to donate excess produce to area food pantries. 

“It’s a wonderful, inclusive garden,” reports Tristano.  “It will bring together members from all segments of the community, from the elderly living in facilities without gardening spaces, to professionals living in the newer high-end career-oriented complexes without hands-on gardens, and people of all different backgrounds and abilities.  One of the best features is that some of the beds are even accessible to those in wheelchairs.”    

The garden is one component of a larger site that also features benches, picnic tables and a tree swing to welcome visitors to the scenic open fields and nearby complex of walking trails; a 100-seat community hall that will serve as a much-needed local gathering place is currently under construction.  “The garden will be a place that produces more than just food,” says Tristano, “it will provide education and produce friendships and a sense of community.” 
Sawtelle notes that the application process for the grant from the REALTOR® Party couldn’t have been easier.  Now that PASS has its first placemaking project off the ground, it’s looking into others to take on, particularly for projects that will enhance the walkability of areas along Boston’s South Shore, from Quincy to Plymouth.

To learn more about how South Shore REALTORS® are making their communities greener, more inviting and more productive, contact Jean Sawtelle, Communications Director of the Plymouth and South Shore Association of REALTORS® at 781-826-5139.

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