By Patricia Frank,
of New York
Now in its diamond jubilee 60th year, The Realty Foundation of New York quietly but steadfastly continues to implement its core mission — aiding real estate professionals in need, financial distress and those who might be undergoing some form of personal hardship.
The Realty Foundation was created in 1954 by a group of leading real estate professionals headed by Jack Weiler, Harry Helmsley and William Zeckendorf, among others.
It has been and continues to be entirely underwritten by the real estate community.
Back in the 50’s when the real estate business was arguably more precarious, there was a need for a foundation that could focus on assisting brokers who were not able to make ends meet financially, because of a wide variety of reasons — business reversals, unforeseen medical expenses, loss of income, disability, to name a few.
Fast forward to 2014. What hasn’t changed is timing related to closings — deals can take months to close, commissions even longer to materialize, yet the rent is due, school tuition must be paid, medical bills accrue, etc.
The camaraderie that establishes within the real estate community is rare and noteworthy. ndustry players know each other and/or know of each other and understand the rollercoaster nature of the business.
A unique enterprise, the Foundation is the only charity in the industry created by the industry for the industry.
It could happen to you, it could happen to any one of us. We can control only so much and when the unpredictable happens, the Foundation is there as a safety net.
Through the gratitude of its donors, and its Charles B. Beneson Scholarship Award Program for college bound students — both for employees and the children of employees — the Foundation exists to give back to its own.
Since its inception, the Realty Foundation has distributed more than $3.3 million in financial aid to 854 recipients, and $4 million in scholarship money to 1,578 college-bound students.
By the way, recipients are not expected to pay the funds back. Many say they will, but can’t afford to. Some return very small amounts. But I can’t help sharing with you a special story that most recently occurred.
More than ten years ago, we gave $10,000 to a broker who was faced with business reversals and was having difficulty making ends meet.
Last week, that same broker called out of the blue to say he and his wife were eternally grateful for the funds that rescued him in a time of need, and he wanted to pay it back. Unheard of!
He made an appointment for the following week to come to our offices accompanied by his wife, and proceeded to write out a check for the entire $10,000.
Rare, very rare indeed to see that kind of gratitude, but that’s the kind of behavior that makes my job as executive director worthwhile. The giving and giving back. The generosity that we were able to show this man came back to us years later and it was such a poignant moment to experience his graciousness in repaying our generosity.
While many in the industry will continue to publicize their mega million dollar deals, and the record-breaking prices they net upon the sale of land parcel, luxury development site or office property, there will be many in the industry who continue to struggle and who desperately need financial support.
For those whom we determine worthy, for those who truly could benefit from a helping hand, the Foundation is there for them … quietly, steadfastly without any noise or fanfare, comprised of real estate industry folk, for real estate industry folk, poised and ready to anonymously help an applicant get back on his or her feet.