Orlando Realtors have announced their annual Good Neighbors Awards, which aim to help non-profit and charitable efforts in the community.
By Jacob Engels
“The winners of this year’s Good Neighbor Awards are a perfect example of REALTORS®’ dedication to building successful neighborhoods and serving those most in need,” says ORRA President Sharon Voss, Watson Realty Corp. “I am proud to honor the impact that these REALTORS’® passion and goodwill have had on the lives of their neighbors and communities.”
The ORRA Good Neighbor Awards is a project of the ORRA Member Relations Committee, which also oversees the association’s community relations efforts. Chairman of this year’s committee, Jeannie Wilson, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty, shares that the committee was humbled by the finalists’ passion and dedication to their causes.
“These Orlando REALTORS® work tirelessly to increase the quality of life for so many individuals and families, and to enrich so many other aspects of our community,” says Wilson. “Our 10 finalists embody a commitment to helping those around them and serve as an example of how REALTORS® build and strengthen communities.”
The ORRA membership participated in an online vote and selected five Good Neighbor Award finalists to each receive a $1,000 donation from ORRA to their charity; the remaining five each received a $500 donation to their charity.
$1,000 Good Neighbor Award Winners
James Batenchuk – Charles Rutenberg Realty – Shriners Hospitals for Children Tampa: James Batenchuk has served for the past seven years as chairman of the Sam Swope Memorial Charity Ride, an annual motorcycle event that takes a full year to organize and benefits the Shriners Hospitals for Children ‐ Tampa. Jim has pursued corporate sponsorships, private funding, and prize donations to the tune of $1.85 million during his tenure as chairman. There’s no holiday break for Jim; he also spearheads a Christmastime toy drive for impoverished children through his local Shrine.
Cynthia Egeli – Keller Williams Winter Park – Orange County Volunteer Advocates for Children: Cynthia Egeli – through the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association – serves the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes and placed into the foster care system. As a trained “Volunteer Advocate for Children,” Cindy ensures that all needs of her assigned child are met, whether those needs are medical, psychological, educational, or otherwise. She also protects the child during any necessary investigation processes and even interviews prospective adoptive families.
Gislene Moorman – Parker Realty Group – Women’s Residential & Counseling Center: Gislene Moorman is the co‐founder of Space To Grow, a non‐profit group dedicated to supporting women and children in need. This year, in honor of the group’s 10th anniversary, Gigi hosted a party at the Women’s Residential & Counseling Center and provided residents with 200 “Baskets of Love” filled with toiletries, laundry items, and $10 in quarters. Gigi personally contributed more than $5,000 in cash and in‐kind donations to the effort, and spent more than 250 hours on the project (in addition to recruiting another 200 volunteer hours from others).
Wendell Philp – La Rosa Realty, LLC – Housing 4 All: Wendell Philp is the founder and an ongoing volunteer for Housing 4 All, an organization that seeks to bridge the homeless into affordable housing with supportive services and an emphasis on homeownership and self‐sufficiency. His personal efforts range from providing educational sessions to women with children in temporary facilities, to forming alliances with other housing entities. Wendell also appeals to REALTORS®, landlords, property owners, and property managers to provide affordable housing to those with barriers such as a credit problem or criminal history.
James Weinberg – Park Place Realty Associates – Base Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation, Inc: James Weinberg is a 12‐year volunteer with Base Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation, Inc., an organization that provides services to all the children in Central Florida facing cancer and other hematological illnesses. As chairman of the group’s board of directors, Jim uses his fund‐raising skills and community resources to support events such as the “Celebrity Waiter Luncheon” (the last one netted $32,000) and 5k runs, plus, programs such as celebrations to mark the end of chemotherapy. Jim even arranged for free office space when the organization was getting started.
$500 Good Neighbor Award Winners
Roberto Baldor – RE/MAX Properties SW Inc. – Dr. Phillips YMCA: Roberto Baldor is a volunteer for the Dr. Phillips YMCA, where he serves on the organization’s board of directors and is a Leader’s Council Level major donor. Bobby also volunteers with the Dr. Phillips Little League as both a coach and board member, and supports both Palm Lake and Dr. Phillips elementary schools. Bobby and his wife, Halle, together are sponsors of the Bridges of Light Foundation for Children, which helps impoverished and/or abused children in Orange County.
Charles Brenner – C Brenner Inc – Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, Inc: Charlie Brenner’s efforts as an eight‐year board member of the Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, Inc., have seen some dramatic results: the raising of $1.5 million and the construction of a memorial park at the new Veterans Administration Medical Center. The memorial honors the more than 1,000 veterans from Orange, Lake, Brevard, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia counties who never returned from service, and it serves as a place of healing and reflection for their friends and families.
Donna Cox – Real Estate Firm of Orlando – Eastside Baptist Student Ministry: Donna Cox is a 20‐year volunteer with the Eastside Baptist Student Ministry, for which she raises money to fund mission trip scholarships. The scholarships are provided to students in difficult situations who would not otherwise be able to experience the personal reward of serving others during a mission trip. Donna and her husband coordinate an annual golf tournament, an affair that contributes to the $10,000 she has raised and the 1,500 hours that she spent on behalf of the ministry this year alone.
Henry Lopez – Tuscawilla Realty, Inc – Green H.O.P.E: Henry Lopez volunteers with Green H.O.P.E., an organization created and run by students wishing to help those with autism, cancer, or atlanto‐occipital dislocation. Hank’s fundraising efforts enable Green H.O.P.E.’s student volunteers to participate in awareness walks and to help with retreats for families of children with cancer. In addition to raising money and providing guidance to young volunteers, Hank also contributes a portion of each of his closings to the organization.
Theodora Uniken Venema – Downtown Brokers LLC – Kids Beating Cancer: Theodora Uniken Venema volunteers with Kids Beating Cancer (an organization that provides resources and support for children with cancer, leukemia, and related life‐threatening diseases) and serves as executive director of its advisory board. Theodora is a fundraiser for the organization’s benefit events, and her own contributions have earned her a spot on its donor wall. This year she also raised funds for a CD that featured the voices of 30 children beating cancer as they sang the original song “My Own Hero.”
The Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association, recognized as one of the most innovative local real estate associations in the country, represents more than 11,500 real estate professionals throughout Central Florida.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org