Imagine a charity where 100 per cent of every dollar raised goes directly to the identified cause.
It’s an idea that initially captured the imagination of two local realtors, Tara Hearn and Jane Johnston, when they attended the inaugural meeting of 100 Women Who Care Victoria back in 2014.
The concept was easy enough. A small group of “founders” gathered family, friends and associates who in turn would reach out to their friends and family. The goal was to assemble a group of 100 women, all willing to meet quarterly to write a $100 cheque to a specific charity with a focus on the needs of women and children. The $10,000 raised would go to the chosen charity with no administration costs and no charitable infrastructure to support.
The elegance of the approach was an instant success for the Victoria 100 Women Who Care group and by the time Hearn and Johnston attended that first meeting, the group had surpassed its 100 women goal with an attendance of more than 200. Today they number more than 300.
But Hearn and Johnston wanted to do more. They saw the concept as an opportunity to reach out to the real estate industry with a goal of providing shelter to marginalized members of our society.
“We work with people who can afford a home and we love that work, but there are too many people who haven’t got a place to go to at the end of the day,” said Johnston. “Those are the people we really wanted to help. It was a chance to give them hope and allow them the self respect that goes along with having a place of your own.”
While still remaining part of the 100 Women Who Care group, Hearn and Johnston decided to launch another chapter of the charity by forming 100 Real Estate Agents Who Care. They recruited fellow realtors Joanne Broderson and Neil Bosdet and the four founders set out to provide a coordinated charity for the Victoria real estate community.
“I knew people in my business were very generous people and I believed it could work,” said Hearn.
Hearn had joined the ranks of an ever-increasing number of women in the real estate business six years earlier, coming to the job with a graduate degree in educational leadership and an established work history as an educational consultant.
“I wanted to try something where I could make a difference while at the same time applying my love of interior design and architecture. Real estate let me do that while putting me in a position where I could help people fulfill their dreams,” said Hearn.
Johnston had similarly come to real estate with a post graduate degree in education and 15 years of experience as an educator. For her, real estate was a place where excellence in service and the personal relationships she formed would be recognized and where she could help clients reach their personal goals.
“It’s always been about helping people for realtors, so this charity concept was really just an extension of those beliefs,” said Hearn.
The charity has received significant support from a variety of sponsors, said Hearn. A number of the brokerages stepped up to help develop the group’s logo and website and spread the word about the new charity. Max Furniture and Ruffell and Brown Window Coverings offered a regular meeting place while other sponsors joined in to provide refreshments for meetings and cover the cost of incidentals required to run the group.
Still, the group hasn’t yet met all its goals.
Hearn explained how the extremely busy real estate market made it difficult to arrange a time when 100 agents could all take the time to attend a meeting for the charity, saying that the market had already started taking off in 2015. It’s a trend that has continued with real estate sales reaching record highs in Victoria in the past year.
“Realtors are working non-stop with barely any possibility to take a day off, so getting them to commit to a charitable meeting was tough,” said Hearn.
By the fourth meeting the group’s founders saw the membership reach 60 realtors. While still shy of the 100 realtors they hope to assemble, the group has still managed to deliver about $30,000 to charities in the past year and Hearn is confident that the 100 realtor goal can be reached.
“After all, our business is all about making certain that people have a place to live, a place where they can live a happy and productive life,” said Hearn. “Our charity is about making that possible for people who hadn’t thought it possible. Everyone needs a place to live.”
The next meeting of 100 Real Estate Agents Who Care will be held on Monday, June 6. More information is available at 100realestateagents.com.