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AEs Share What “REALTOR® Family” Really Means

July 1, 2011

Despite differing opinions in challenging times, we’re still a family. I remind myself of this often, as I hear from members about dues increases and housing market woes.

The word “family” means something different to everyone. Whether it’s by blood, marriage, or simply a shared history, most people agree that family is the most important thing in life. As a busy association executive, sometimes I see my REALTOR® family more than my own family, which certainly makes the life/work balancing act difficult. But spending all that time with my REALTOR® family isn’t for naught, because REALTORS® have proven time and time again that they are a very supportive and comforting group of people.

From NAR’s REALTORS® Relief Foundation, celebrating 10 years of helping members and families in need, to local associations setting up benevolent funds and relief foundations, our members have demonstrated that they truly do care about one another and us.

Our job can be tough at times, especially when we’re juggling our duties at the association with personal matters like illness, a loved one’s passing, or financial strife. Although it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae and occasional pettiness of day-to-day office life, it’s important to take a step back and realize that we really do work with an extraordinary group of people.

I’ve heard from dozens of AEs who are grateful for the often-unexpected level of support given by their REALTOR® family during times of need. Here are some of their stories.

Support. “As you know I lost my beautiful, wonderful wife, Valerie, suddenly and unexpectedly on Jan. 4. As the word of Valerie’s untimely passing spreads, I continue to receive cards and messages of support from across the state and the country: from members of the RCE family, from the NAR staff, from the leadership of the California AOR, and more. Valerie’s memorial service was attended by PFAR officers, directors, members, and staff; my peers and leadership from neighboring AORs; and senior staff from the California Association of REALTORS®. I cannot imagine making this horrendous journey without the prayers and support of the REALTOR® family. Although I have lost my soulmate and love of my life, I have gained a new understanding about what it means to be a member of the REALTOR® family.” Shared by Terry Murphy, RCE, CEO, Pasadena-Foothills Association of REALTORS®, Calif.

Empathy. “The moment where I felt the strongest presence of the REALTOR® family was a time where I attended a funeral of a REALTOR® in another state, who was also the younger brother of a fellow state AE. REALTORS® throughout the board did an ‘honor guard’ where they lined the street from where the casket arrived, all the way into the church, and the local association executive officer, with her swollen eyes, was at the head of the honor guard. I had the biggest sense that day, and ever since, that our relationship with each other as part of this REALTOR® family is something way more than just professional.” Shared by Cindy Butts, RCE, CAE, CEO, Maine Association of REALTORS®

Consideration. “Last year, I was facing a major surgery and a four- to six-week recuperation period. Being in a one-person association office, I had serious concerns about who was going to be able to assume my duties on a temporary basis, and on such short notice, because I didn’t have time to train anyone. On top of that, my husband had been laid off from his job for the winter months. How were we going to afford this? I only had two weeks of vacation time to use and no sick time. I discussed my concerns with my board of directors. Their solution? Let my husband come into the office for me (he is the office manager for a construction company, so he knows the ropes) and they would continue to pay me my regular salary through my entire recuperation period. My husband would bring home any questions and paperwork that needed my immediate attention. Otherwise, he would handle all the day-to-day business.

“It worked like a charm. I was able to heal quicker because I had no stress associated with who was trying to run the office and how much of a mess I would have to straighten out when I got back. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about how we were going to stay current with the bills with only my husband’s unemployment check. It seems that our members often get a bad reputation. Not enough good things are publicized.” Shared by Kathy Henderson, e-PRO, AE, Carbon County Association of REALTORS®, Pa.

Comfort. “I lost my husband very suddenly in June of 2003. He was a REALTOR® and very active in our community. My REALTORS® were some of the first people to come to my house or call to give me support. After the funeral, they put on a huge potluck dinner at my house for everyone. They also donated money for funeral expenses in addition to asking brokers for donations to help with my expenses. I am very thankful that I work with such wonderful, caring people!” Shared by Jeannette Biddle, EO, ­Yakima Assoc. of REALTORS®, Wash.

Understanding. “On Sept. 18, 2001 (just shy of her third birthday), my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Her treatment included two years of chemo, with six months of that on an irregular schedule. I would get a month schedule in advance as to what the treatment for that month would be. My association was very giving and understanding during this trying time in our lives. They took up money and allowed me to take off (with pay) anytime necessary. Briana is now 12 and is still in remission.” Shared by Margie Harper, EVP, Heart of Kentucky Association of REALTORS®

Generosity. “We started a benevolent fund several years ago called REALTORS® Helping REALTORS®. The funds for this are by voluntary donations billed with our annual dues statements. We have nearly $4,000 in the account, which isn’t a lot of money, but we have been able to help several of our members who have had dire medical conditions.” Shared by Martha Taylor, EVP, Baldwin County Association of REALTORS®, Ala.

Compassion. During my husband’s six-month illness and hospitalizations, my directors kept telling me to take as much time as I needed, because my husband came first. That meant so much to me, because I am the only employee at the office. When my husband passed away two years ago, the state association EVP and two other employees, as well as the other Maine AEs from all over the state, came to his celebration of life service. I was so overwhelmed when they walked in together. I will complete 24 years here as the AE, and have always thought of the membership as ‘my REALTOR® fam-ily.’” Shared by Beverleé C. Beers, EVP, Hancock-Washington Board of REALTORS®, Maine

Thank you to those who shared their heartwarming stories with us. This article was inspired by Carolyn Arnold, AE, Permian-Basin Board of REALTORS®, Texas, and is dedicated in loving memory to her mother, Jackie Barnett.

Visit the guide to establishing a member relief fund.