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Agents do more for area than just sell its houses
Monday, October 15 2007 @ 11:25 AM Etc/GMT
If you've shopped for a house and heard the pitch about quality of life in the Huntsville area, you may have wondered if that was just hype to make a sale. But local real estate agents say it's the real deal, because they also dedicate considerable time to help make the community a genuinely great place to live.

"Real estate agents give back to the community because this is where we live, this is where we make our living, and if we can give time, money or whatever is needed back, it makes it a better place to be," says Betty Hughes, president of the Huntsville Area Association of Realtors. "Realtors give back as a group, too, because if we are committed as a group we can move mountains."

Area real estate agents say that while the perception may be that they make lots of money and just want to sell a house, the truth is that the job comes with long hours, considerable investment and many concessions to help a client. It also means supporting the quality of life in their communities, because they're one of the first to recognize its needs and want to help.

"The economy is strong here, but every community needs volunteers, and people to step up to the plate to raise money and serve," Hughes says. "That is why we are a strong community."

Hughes' own community efforts were recently recognized when her peers in the association recently awarded her with this year's Good Neighbor award for her community work, which includes serving on several local boards such as the American Red Cross and Early Works Museum Complex. She also participates in several fundraising projects, such as auctions and events benefitting many charitable organizations.

The Realtor boards unite for many causes, but she says many agents also serve at their schools and churches, as well as put in numerous volunteer hours in community efforts close to them.

Hughes says the association supported her, as its president, in fundraising for Still Serving Veterans, the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, Kid One Transport (transport sick children to doctors), and Habitat for Humanity.

"Every president is blessed to be able to leave our job knowing we have made a difference," she says. Hughes hopes the organization's future efforts also will focus more on educational projects and serving on these groups' boards, because so many of them are volunteer-driven.

Kim Bunn, Realtor with Realty Executives in Huntsville, agrees that a strong community needs strong volunteer involvement.

"I do all these things because I believe in order to have a strong community, we must all get involved," Bunn says. "I am so greatful to be involved with each one of these organizations. I have learned so much about planning a black tie event, about helping people in tough situations and about making people feel comfortable. I'm giving about 15 hours per week to my community, but I gain so much more in return."

Bunn is a board member for the Volunteer Center of Madison County, helping to make its programs such as the language bank and Youth Volunteerism more effective. She also chairs the Father of the Year effort to honor outstanding fathers. She's an ambassador for the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce and helps recruit new businesses, as well as helping new chamber members feel comfortable at networking events and to get more involved.

An active volunteer with Still Serving Veterans, she talks to veterans every quarter who have just returned to the area, or veterans having a difficult time readjusting. She adds, "I'm by no means an expert, but just a friendly face who can listen and maybe offer some encouragement."

For Margaret Mann, a certified residential specialist at Averbuch Realty in Huntsville, her volunteer work became even more personal when she was diagnosed with a malignant tumor around her spine, which lead to her involvement with the Lymphoma/Leukemia Society this year.

For 42 years, Mann has been a member of the Homemakers Club in her community and assists with many of its projects. In August, she bought shoes for children in need at a local school and helped raise $2,000 by helping publish a homemakers cookbook to place a brick sign at the school's entrance. Madison Academy's anchor club sponsored her in the Light the Night Walk, and she raised $3,000. As health chairwoman of her local club, she's also given many educational programs on lymphoma this year.

"I love giving back and just being a servant to others," she says. "We, as Realtors, are so blessed in our profession and it only makes sense to give back to others. It is the most rewarding thing you can do."

Real estate agents are also what Carey Rosenblum calls "the lightning rods" for many of the public's questions on the pulse of the community.

"Usually the questions come up in regard to the real estate market - in particular on interest rates, seller or buyer's market, tightening of money or loans available, new developments, and school and employment opportunities," says Rosenblum, broker with Rosenblum Realty, also in Huntsville. "As the Realtor is in the mix of knowing and keeping up with the community, they also observe needs and challenges that are present in their community or city. I think most every Realtor recognizes that all they can do to better or improve their community means a general benefit to all concerned."

This means finding ways to help the physically, mentally, financially and educationally challenged members of the community, he says. The more they assist in these areas, the more they lift the quality of life.

Susan Ozment says her church, Trinity United Methodist, has built a Habitat for Humanity house every year for more than 10 years, and she's been involved in various capacities in these projects. The company Ozment co-founded and co-owns, Keller Williams Realty in Huntsville, is sponsoring a Habitat house in spring of next year. Ozment says she's happy to be able to participate in it.

"Without volunteers, many of the events and organizations that make Huntsville the wonderful city it is would not be able to exist in the form they are today," says Ozment.

Last year, Ozment chaired the Huntsville-Madison County United Way fundraiser. She's a graduate of the Huntsville-Madison County Leadership Class 15 and served on subsequent leadership committees. She also was a member of the Women's Economic Development Council Board, as well as having served on numerous Junior League committees.

Source: THIBODEAUX For The Times htimes@bellsouth.net

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