RASM has established a Humanitarian Award to be bestowed quarterly, designed to recognize the Realtors® who are doing great things in our community. We want to show our members and the two-county area that Realtors® make up a large part of our community’s success.
In the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, with businesses closed and emergency rooms packed, two local Realtors® had an idea. It was a vision really, a heartfelt inspiration to step up and make a difference, to step out of their comfort zone, to put their own businesses on hold, and do everything in their power to support their struggling community.
Brian Loebker, a Realtor® with Michael Saunders & Company, and Brandy Coffey, a Realtor® with Keller Williams Island Life Real Estate, created the program “Feed a Healthcare Hero,” a community-wide outreach program designed to bring meals to healthcare workers and first responders, while providing much needed financial support to local restaurants. The program started in mid-March, during the start of the pandemic, and remained operational for nearly 40 days, ending at the end of May.
The Feed a Healthcare Hero campaign started with a simple GoFundMe page and skyrocketed in ways no one anticipated. The program raised 364 cash donations from fellow Realtors® and other members of the community, totaling over $30,000.
These funds were used to patron restaurants, buying 1,800 meals from 93 different local restaurants that were then donated and delivered by Realtor® volunteers to area hospitals. During the program, 167 volunteers made a total of 118 deliveries to 63 separate healthcare facilities and first responder agencies including Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Doctors Hospital, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, Blake Medical, Manatee Memorial, and Venice Regional Hospital.
The two-part program provided much-needed support for local businesses and their employees while also providing a warm meal and a special thank you to our strained healthcare workers.
MEETING A GREAT NEED
“We were watching three separate industries go through a massive shift at the same time,” said Brian. “The local restaurants were completely shut down, shutting down all their revenue. The real estate industry, even though deemed essential, was experiencing a major slow down in activity. And then at the same time, our healthcare workers had their workload quadrupled overnight. So, the idea came from a desire to help all three industries and rally our Realtor® family and the community to make a difference,” said Brian.
“It was so nice to see the smiles on the faces of our healthcare workers,” said Brandy. “Knowing how hard they are working, exhausted and scared, and often times quarantined from their own families, and yet they still had a smile. Everyone was just so appreciative, the restaurants, the healthcare workers, and even the volunteers. It felt so great to be active again and to be able to do something helpful.”
“We raised the capital money first, and then about five days later we started the field operations,” said Brian. “Oh, I remember very vividly, about only 24-48 hours after the initial capital raise, I thought, ‘Oh boy, we’re going to need a war room!’ We brought in massive white boards into my dining room and we quickly came up with a detailed system of organization because we knew we had hit the beehive. There was a lot to coordinate and manage to run this project successfully. The program triggered such an amazing response from the community, we were so grateful to everyone who made it happen.”
“The need all around was so intense – from those that needed the funds and the meals, to those who needed and truly wanted to help out. It was a humbling experience all around,” added Brandy.
The program also received bags of food donated by Publix and Detwiler’s, and received various donations in addition to dollars raised from the community. Michael Saunders & Company helped produce and distribute flyers. RASM’s Community Outreach Committee partnered with the program, offering support with the financial logistics, as well as assisting to promote the program in general.
Once the state started to re-open again, the Feed a Healthcare Hero initiative came to a close with a grand finale in which the group brought meals to National Guard Troops, members of the CDC, and State Health Department workers at a COVID-19 testing site in Sarasota. But with the closing of the program, so much was gained, including a deep appreciation from the community at large. In times of such hardship and division, seeing people come together in a truly altruistic manor, donating countless volunteer hours and showing love for one another, is something to be celebrated.
“The program triggered such an amazing response from the community, we were so grateful to everyone who made it happen,” Brian Loebker.
Like so many others during this difficult time, Brian and Brandy felt overwhelmed by the impact that COVID-19 has had on our community. But this dynamic duo decided to do something about it, and for that, they are BOTH recognized as our Quarter 2 Humanitarians of the Quarter.
“In such a difficult time of uncertainty, our community came together,” said Brandy.
“We are all competitors. We work professionally together, but we are all Realtors® competing in the same market. But when this program launched, we had agents from almost every brokerage and every firm you could imagine, come together overnight. There were no more individual brokerages, we were just acting like one, cohesive group. The walls were immediately broken down. We have forged friendships that won’t be broken. We are so thankful for everyone who had a part in making this happen. In the most challenging times I’ve ever known, we pulled our resources and we came together to make a positive difference. I’m so very proud of that.”