News & Media
Gloved hand holding grocery bag delivered to thankful older couple
amriphoto / Getty Images

Realtors Rise to Occasion to Serve Community During Pandemic

Realtors are at the heart of every community, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have showed up in full force to help those in need.

One of Natalie Arrowsmith’s friends has owned a popular bar and grill for 30 years. But during the pandemic, the lack of business was threatening a shut down—something she hadn’t even done during hurricanes.

Concerned about the financial fate of the restaurant, Arrowsmith took action. “I told everyone that Wednesday was the grill’s steak night. ‘Call in. Place a takeout order,’” she and her fellow real estate professionals and friends blasted to everyone they could. “The owner was in tears when she told me the next day, ‘We sold out [of steaks],’” says Arrowsmith, broker-owner of NextHome Arrowsmith Realty in Apopka. The establishment stayed open. 

But Arrowsmith didn’t stop there. She taught her agents about the stimulus package so that they could apply and also help their customers, neighbors, and local business owners. “I [encouraged] our agents not to sell, but rather to find out what the community needed, and answer those needs as best they could,” she adds.

Realtors are the heart of every community, and in times of crisis, they come together to serve the community as best they can. They became sources of comfort, philanthropy, and knowledge during one of the hardest and scariest times in American history.

Here are a few more stories of their generosity and care:

Treats for nurses and doctors

Knowing several nurses and doctors, Lara Sahakian, broker-associate with Elite Global Estates in Fort Lauderdale, wanted to uplift them during their grueling 16-hour shifts. So, she and her friend, Kim Knauzs, director of VIP Sales for the Sports & Entertainment Division at ONE Sotheby’s International Realty, decided to send boxes of sweet treats to a hospital. That quickly turned into providing meals a few times a week to the hospital workers. 

Wanting to expand the program wider, the pair created a GoFundMe page, which allowed them to pay for more than 450 meals delivered each week to three hospitals. The restaurants involved were thrilled for the orders and to help, Sahakian adds. “We posted all the deliveries on social media, so those who donated could see where their money [went],” she says.

Groceries for elderly and at-risk homeowners

During the height of the pandemic, Marilue Mitchell Maris, broker-associate of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida in Freeport, and her husband helped the elderly in their neighborhood by making runs to Walmart to get groceries and necessities.

“I’d put my mask on and bring [the groceries] over to their homes, leaving them on the doorstep after ensuring they were home. They were afraid, or they couldn’t get out [to the stores],” she says.

Maris also knew that many of the popular local bands and musicians who perform live concerts on the bay were hurting financially. She helped organize and promote the bands, which were playing online concerts every Wednesday and Sunday nights. People could watch the shows on Facebook Live and tip the players through payment app Venmo.

Luck of the Irish

Gary Balanoff, broker-owner of RE/MAX Select in Orlando, sent a lottery scratch-off card to everyone on his A-client list along with a personal note wishing them the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. “I wrote a personal note [letting them] know if they need any help [to call me],” he says.

He explained in the letter that he knew good vendors and companies. If they needed a roof repair or groceries delivered, he could help them. He received many requests. “I want my agents to get the word out that they can get help with a variety of services and problems,” he adds.

Clapping for health-care workers

When Marla Fountain, an agent with Corcoran Group in West Palm Beach, saw the @solidarityat8 movement on Instagram, she thought, “I can do that.” The movement asks people around the world to come to their windows and clap each night at 8 p.m. to show support and appreciation for healthcare workers and first responders. 

“With the help of social media and my South End Neighborhood Association [Fountain is secretary], we posted like crazy and sent emails and texts to neighbors encouraging them to come out and clap,” she says. “It was an incredible success and unified the neighborhood. We even had local firefighters drive by with their lights on, honking to say thank you,” says Fountain, who says that, at press time, the neighbors continued to get out and clap each night.

Sewing masks

Jennifer Piper and Lisa Morgan, broker-associates with Mainframe Real Estate in Orlando, have been making hundreds of masks and delivering them to the local hospitals.

“I contacted them, and they made several masks for me, as well,” says Kim Ducharme Levensohn of Morris Realty & Investments Inc., noting the wonderful collaboration across companies in the area.

“We brought dinner to some of our customers who were working on the front lines at the hospital and gave them masks,” she says. Levensohn has also been promoting local restaurants by featuring them on her personal, business and community Facebook pages and Instagram. “We order frequently from the businesses, knowing it helps the community,” she says.

Serving a condo community

Venus Proffer, a broker-associate with Coldwell Banker Realty in Fort Lauderdale, met Uncle Ernie more than 20 years ago. He’s not really her uncle, but she calls him that after selling him several properties through the years and becoming quite close. The elderly man lives close by, so she decided to drop off homemade bean soup mix in Mason jars and mini loaves of banana bread to him and many of his neighbors in his condominium community.

In addition, Proffer and her husband drop off weekly meals to a homeless man in their community and continued to do so during the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s about the human touch now.”

Food and support

Wanting to support local restaurants that are struggling, The Jills Zeder Group with Coldwell Banker Real Estate in South Florida, decided to team up with Rice Mediterranean Kitchen, a family-owned business, to provide meals to local healthcare workers.

In addition, the group purchased gift cards to other local restaurants to hand out to the staff at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Baptist Health  to show their support and appreciation of healthcare workers.

“Our team greatly values the critical work first responders do on the front lines,” said Danny Hertzberg, a sales associate with The Jills Zeder Group. “This is an important time to support the community. There are many ways to show gratitude and we hope the first responders feel our support and love.”

The tireless work of these Realtors shows what the real estate industry is all about at heart—building relationships, helping people and supporting communities.

Do you have a story to tell? Email