It seems like an obvious connection: What’s good for a community is good for real estate agents selling homes there. But for many local agents, the desire to help goes far beyond that. We talked to several agents whose contributions through the years have really made St. Louis a better place to make a home.
JANET HORLACHER, Janet McAfee Real Estate
Janet Horlacher remembers when The Women’s Safe House (TWSH) was an old brownstone that was rented from the nearby Sisters of Loretta for $1 per year. Horlacher, principal at Janet McAfee, has worked with TWSH for about 20 years. The old building reminded her of Pippi Longstocking’s crooked house, she says, but for years it served its purpose: providing shelter for battered women who had no place else to go.
“I was on the board and also volunted to watch the kids on Thursday nights while their moms attended parenting class,” Horlacher recalls. “We realized we were overgrowing this brownstone. It was like a dorm where everyone on the floor shared a bathroom.” The quarters’ limitations meant that sometimes women couldn’t bring their teenage boys, she says. “Some would need to decide to escape the violence and leave the children back home or to not come at all.” The building also was in need of major repairs. Because of this, Horlacher chaired a $1 million capital campaign in 1998 to buy and renovate a new building, which provides separate apartment-style units for each family.
She is now serving a two-year term as president of the board, and is preparing to help the organization celebrate its 35th anniversary next year. “It’s difficult and stressful work, but it really is rewarding. It sure makes me count my blessings.”
NEIL AND MARK GELLMAN, Coldwell Banker Premier Group
“We believe in giving back to the community,” says Mark Gellman of Coldwell Banker Premier Group, The Gellman Team. He and his brother, Neil Gellman, are not only partners in real estate, but also frequently join forces in community service. “That’s how we were raised, to give back to individuals who don’t have as much as we have.” Among their many efforts, The Gellman Team has hosted fundraisers for Toys for Tots and helped build a house through Habitat for Humanity.
The two annually participate in a 150-mile bike ride in Columbia, Mo., to raise money for the MS Society. In the past five years, the team has raised between $600,000 and $700,000 for the cause, says Mark Gellman, who serves on the board of the Gateway Chapter of the MS Society. He says adding a physical component to fundraising always seems to help the cause. “We can say, we’ve trained the whole summer and I’m going to run a marathon. All I’m asking you to do is give X per mile. It makes it easier than just sending a letter to fundraise.”
Neil Gellman is on the board of Lift For Life Gym, which provides a safe haven for kids and keeps them active after school. “It originally started around weight lifting, but now we have a basketball court, computers, and college students come down and tutor the kids,” he says. “It keeps them off the street and keeps them out of trouble.”
MARC LEVINSON, Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty
On a recent afternoon, you only had to walk into Marc Levinson’s office to see how dedicated a volunteer he is: The office was filled to the brim with bags of donations bound for Joplin. “Winter clothes are the latest dire need,” he says. “Apparently nobody thought about that because when the tornado hit, it was pretty warm. Everybody thought by the time winter rolls around, everything is going to be hunky-dory. That’s not the case, so there’s an urgent need.”
An agent with Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty, Levinson was recently honored by the St. Louis Association of Realtors as Realtor Associate of the Year for his work. Levinson also is president-elect for the Women’s Council of Realtors, a professional group that promotes learning and networking among realtors; and sits on the United Way’s membership panel, which screens organizations that have applied to become affiliated with the nonprofit to receive funding.
“My philosophy in life is you get out of life what you give,” he says. “It’s something I stress to my children. You get so much satisfaction giving back, so you just find a way to make time for charitable endeavors and volunteer your time.” Plus, community service can be highly enjoyable—Levinson also is the public address announcer for Ladue’s varsity football team, a coveted position he earned through his involvement with the high school’s alumni association. “It’s a lot of fun,” he says. “I really look forward to doing those games.”