A call to action: Nearly 600 area Realtors team up for one-day service projects

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Real estate agents from across the area team up to plant sea oats in Wrightsvillle Beach during the second annual Realtor Action Day. Courtesy photos.
Real estate agents from across the area team up to plant sea oats in Wrightsvillle Beach during the second annual Realtor Action Day. Courtesy photos.

In the always fast-paced, sometimes autonomous and often competitive life of a real estate agent, it’s not every day you get to put down your phone, get your hands dirty and talk about the weather with colleagues rather than competing to close deals.

Tuesday was that day.

As part of the second annual Realtor Action Day (RAD), hundreds of buyers’ and sellers’ agents met up across the area to volunteer at 19 locations, including public parks, youth centers and nursing homes.

It’s an event, organized by the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors, that Tom Gale of Coldwell Banker’s Team Gale said arose from a national trend in the field to shift focus on community outreach.

And it appears local Realtors are sharing that view. Tuesday morning, nearly 600 agents met up to plant bushes, trees and sea oats, spend time with senior citizens and clean up natural sites. That’s encouraging to Gale, who noted the rapid increase in attendance from the inaugural RAD in 2015.

“Last year, we had 400 participants and this time, it went to 575. We have 1,800 active Realtors in the area and 2,300 association members, so it’s really nice to see such a large representation of our association contributing in just the second year,” Gale said.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, a fellow realtor, gets his hands--and maybe his suit--dirty while helping build a community garden at St. John's Episcopal Church.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, a fellow Realtor, gets his hands – and maybe his suit – dirty while helping build a community garden at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

For Gale, this year’s RAD was much like last, in that he once again was involved with creating a community garden. But that’s a task he said he is happy to repeat.

In 2015, he helped to put a garden in at Devon Park Methodist Church, which serves a large number of the city’s Burmese refugee population.

It was an endeavor aimed at both establishing an affordable food source and giving the new residents an opportunity to cultivate produce from their homeland.

“So, they are able to grow crops you couldn’t get at a grocery store here,” he said.

As a team captain this time around, Gale oversaw a large group of 46 – including Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, a fellow Realtor – at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The garden there will serve as a gathering place for gardeners, with half of the yield going to a local food bank.

“It’s cool to do a project that has that kind of longevity,” Gale said.

“Cool” is the word another project leader, Leigh Saunders-Corbin with Century 21 Sweyer and Associates used to describe her work at Hugh MacRae Park.

Although they “picked up three to four billion pine cones” – or it at least certainly felt like that many – Saunders-Corbin said she enjoyed the camaraderie with her colleagues while doing so.

“With so many people in the field, you don’t always have the opportunity to be face to face, so it’s nice be able to get together…in a casual atmosphere and chat, where you’re not competing for the same client or in a position where you have to be more closed-mouthed,” she said. “It’s really cool to be able to create unity and teamwork.”

Nearly 600 realtors volunteered at 19 sites, including Hugh MacRae Park, seen here.
Nearly 600 realtors volunteered at 19 sites, including Hugh MacRae Park, seen here.

Saunders-Corbin and Gale said their respective agencies are already actively involved in giving back in various ways throughout the year and pride themselves on fostering cooperative, supportive workplaces.

“It’s always good to give back in a meaningful way. That is core to my team and how we operate. We do lots of projects as a team throughout the year,” Gale said.

But both acknowledged the importance of getting out of their offices and collaborating as a cohesive unit of like-minded professionals.

“Realtors are individual agents. In my case, I have a team but it’s still kind of a small footprint you make that way. So, it’s nice to do something as an association to be visible in the community. That’s why [during RAD] we all wear the same color shirts,” he said, laughing. “But it’s great to get out there in the dirt. Last year, someone joked that it was the first time there were so many Realtors were in one place without one of us on the phone.”

All jokes aside, Gale and Saunders-Corbin said the root of all that digging and planting, pruning and laying pine straw is a simple desire to serve the community. In addition to landscaping efforts and nursing home visits, teams of volunteers also helped spruce up the appearance of non-profits like Community Boys and Girls Club and helped out with coastline protection measures in Carolina Beach State Park and at Topsail Beach.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.