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REALTOR® Award Finalists Recognized for Volunteer Efforts

WASHINGTON (August 29, 2011) - Realtors® don’t only help people realize their dreams of home ownership; they also volunteer their time and skills to help improve the communities in which they live. Ten such Realtors® were recognized today by the National Association of Realtors® as finalists for REALTOR® Magazine’s 2011 Good Neighbor Awards.

This year marks the 12th year the Good Neighbor Awards program has recognized Realtors® who volunteer to serve the needs of those who are less fortunate. The Realtors® acknowledged by this program over the years have donated their time, money and efforts to help improve the quality of life for others in their communities.

In November five winners will be selected from among the 10 finalists and will receive travel expenses to the 2011 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Anaheim, Calif. Winners will also receive national media exposure for their community cause and a $10,000 grant for their charity. In addition, five honorable mentions will receive a $2,500 grant. The winners will be announced in the November/December issue of REALTOR®Magazine.

“Realtors® play a meaningful role in building communities across the country,” said NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “The Good Neighbor Awards highlight Realtors® who are volunteering their time to answer a need in their community. We’re proud to help them grow their efforts so they can serve even more people.” A past Good Neighbor Award recipient himself, Phipps was recognized in 2001 for his work with the Tomorrow Fund.

The 10 Realtor® Magazine Good Neighbor Awards finalists are:

Robin Bahr, Coldwell Banker Riviera Real Estate, Bayville, N.J.
After 15 years as a team captain and committee member for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Bahr found a unique, new way to fundraise. Inspired by hearing that some of her daughter’s classmates couldn’t afford to go to prom, Bahr and her daughter launched “Patti’s Prom Project,” named after a friend who survived stage four lung cancer. Since 2009, Bahr has collected more than 4,000 donated formal dresses, along with shoes, accessories and prom services to give to girls in need in exchange for a $20 donation. Since 1996, Bahr has donated more than $40,000 to the American Cancer Society.

LeRoy J. Bendickson, Edina Realty, Edina, Minn.
For more than 20 years, Bendickson has led bike teams to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Minnesota Chapter. In 2011, his “Real Estate Riders” team of 250 riders rode the two-day, 150-mile race and raised $146,000. Bendickson recruits riders from across the state, coordinates their training, obtains sponsors, organizes lodging and transportation for his team and provides a hospitality tent with food and entertainment after the race. Since he began, his teams have raised nearly $1 million.

Elizabeth “Beth” Fernandez, Marron Gildea REALTORS®, Ridgewood, N.J.
As founder of Glen Rock Poverty Awareness Project, Fernandez sponsors an annual Poverty Awareness Week She works closely with local schools to select one project each year to help break the cycle of poverty. Since 2006, she’s raised more than $140,000 to build a Habitat for Humanity house, purchase water pumps for villages in Africa, provide 3,500 mosquito nets for earthquake victims in Haiti and support other worthy causes around the world. She is currently working with a nonprofit organization called From Houses to Homes to help build several homes and a school in Guatemala.

Marta Karpiel, Alain Pinel REALTORS®, Carmel, Calif.
Karpiel’s personal donations have removed more than 350 landmines in Cambodia through the nonprofit Freedom Fields. She also developed a successful fundraising tool in the form of a map that lets donors choose the parcels of land that they are funding to clear, which has raised more than $250,000. She handles all the marketing and promotion for the organization and secured a $50,000 grant from the U.S. State Department. Karpiel, who has visited Cambodia twice, raised money to build a school on cleared land and provide backpacks, books and supplies for 200 children.

Christian C. Klueg, CMK and Associates, Real Estate, Northville, N.Y.
Klueg wanted to provide a fun, safe place in his rural upstate New York town where teenagers didn’t worry about drugs or alcohol. In 2004, he formed a youth community outreach program called The Pink Chicken, which attracts more than 120 teenagers on Friday nights for fun activities. As the program grew, he added a skateboard half-pipe, an ice skating rink and hosts musicians for high school students in the area. His program has become a role model for others and he also mentors other youth leaders in the area.

Mark Meinhardt, Star One REALTORS®, West Chester, Ohio
Meinhardt founded Sophie’s Angel Run, an annual 5K in memory of their daughter Sophie Grace who died suddenly from a brain tumor when she was 18 months old. The event has inspired tremendous community support, with more than 2,500 participants last year. Since 2007, the race has donated $200,000 to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, primarily for pediatric brain tumor research. Meinhardt and his family also keep Sophie’s memory alive through an educational scholarship fund.

Vito A. Pampalona, Broker, Vito Anthony Homes, Rochester, Mich.
As a Vietnam veteran, Pampalona wanted to help wounded soldiers. Since 2003, he has frequently visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center and has adopted the nickname “Uncle Vito.” Pampalona created a book, video, audio library and snack pantry for patients and their families at Walter Reed. He also provides new clothes for patients to wear instead of hospital gowns and holds an annual Christmas party with generous gifts for patients, families and staff. Since 2003 he has raised or donated $500,000 to benefit wounded veterans. Pampalona is also national chair of the Yellow Ribbon Fund Ambassador program, which helps welcome injured soldiers home.

Judy Pitt, Green, Wright Kingdom, Boulder, Colo.
Pitt formalized her charity work by founding Kazi Yake in 2008 after taking several mission trips to Kenya to address the need for clean water. Access to clean water prevents waterborne disease and allows girls to attend school instead of spending their time procuring water. Twice a year, Pitt takes teams of up to 20 volunteers to provide water filters, train midwives and teach farmers how to increase their yields. This month she is travelling to Kenya to open a well that will bring clean water to 10,000 people in a rural village. She is raising money to build a medical clinic and plans to move to Kenya permanently one day to continue her work full time.

Lynn H. Reecer, Reecer Properties, Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind.
Reecer co-founded and led a nonprofit to design and build a state-of-the-art bicycle and pedestrian trails system in Fort Wayne and Allen County, Ind. Following the tragic death of a dear friend and cyclist in 2001, Reecer co-founded Aboite New Trails (now Fort Wayne Trails), raised $13 million, built over 20 miles of new trails, lobbied the city of Fort Wayne to hire a manager position and partnered with the public sector to make Fort Wayne safer, pedestrian friendly and economically viable. Her success has inspired similar initiatives throughout the state.

Wayne J. Shaffer, Broker, Shaffer and Associates, Santa Cruz, Calif.
For more than three decades, Shaffer has been serving the poor and homeless of Santa Cruz, California. He is cofounder and president of St. Francis Soup Kitchen, where he has volunteered since 1982. In 2000, after meeting a soup kitchen client who was pregnant and living in her car, he founded Siena House Maternity Home, which provides emergency shelter, pre- and post-natal care, parenting skills training and counseling for women experiencing a crisis pregnancy.

“During times of economic uncertainty, the efforts of these Good Neighbor Award finalists are needed more than ever,” said Frank Sibley, REALTOR® Magazine publisher. “We hope that the grant money and publicity from this award will allow these extraordinary Realtors® to make their charities even more effective.”

REALTOR® Magazine’s Good Neighbor Awards is sponsored by Lowe’s and HouseLogic. In addition to the grant awards, each of the Good Neighbor Award winners will receive a $2,000 Lowe’s gift card, and each of the honorable mentions will receive a $1,000 Lowe’s gift card.

Nominees were judged on their personal contribution of time, as well as financial and material contributions, to benefit their cause. To be eligible, nominees must be NAR members in good standing.

More information about the Good Neighbor Awards finalists is available at www.realtor.org/realtormag.

Lowe’s (www.lowes.com) has worked with customers to maintain and improve their homes since 1946. Lowe’s is proud to support the Good Neighbor Awards. Lowe’s is a proud supporter of Habitat for Humanity International, American Red Cross, SkillsUSA/SkillsCanada, and The Nature Conservancy, in addition to numerous nonprofit organizations and programs that help communities in North America. In 2010, Lowe’s and the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation together contributed more than $30 million to support community and education projects in North America. Lowe’s also encourages volunteerism through the Lowe’s Heroes program, a company-wide employee volunteer initiative. Lowe’s, a proud partner in NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program, brings Realtors® exclusive benefits to help build relationships with their customers, generate referrals and expand their client base. The benefits program is featured on www.LowesRealtorBenefits.com.

HouseLogic, www.houselogic.com, is a free source of information and tools from the National Association of Realtors® that can help homeowners make smart and timely decisions about their home. With content covering home improvement, maintenance, taxes, finance, insurance, and even ways to get involved in and enrich their community, HouseLogic can help homeowners increase and protect the value of their home by helping them make confident decisions.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the Web site’s “News Media” section in the NAR Media Center.