By Maggie FitzRoy, Contributing Writer
A woman with five children had a severely leaky roof that she could not afford to fix.
Four of the youngsters were foster children and if the roof caved in, they likely would have been removed from the only stable and loving home they had ever known.
When Builders Care Executive Director Justin Brown learned of her plight, he knew she had to go to the top of his long list of people needing emergency assistance.
“It’s devastating how many people need help,” he said. “And your roof is your first line of defense. We jumped on it.”
Builders Care is the charitable arm of the Northeast Florida Builders Association, whose mission is to provide affordable or free construction services to people in need, as well as to other nonprofits.
The organization is building a home for a Marine who was paralyzed in a parachuting accident and recently built a ramp at the home of a mother who became a paraplegic after a truck accident. The ramp allowed her to roll her wheelchair into the backyard to play with her young daughter.
Builders Care’s generosity is not unique in Northeast Florida’s construction and real estate industries.
Philanthropy is a big deal for many Realtors, builders and developers throughout the region. Their giving makes a huge difference in many people’s lives. And they support a wide variety of causes and nonprofits throughout the year.
Davidson Realty started its foundation, Davidson Cares, about three years ago to help youth in St. Johns and Duval counties.
This past year, they paired up with St. Augustine Youth Services to help support the home the nonprofit operates for boys ages 6 to 18, who are severely abused and neglected.
The foundation has raised more than $20,000 for the nonprofit, said Peyton Davidson, vice president of marketing and social media.
A skeet shooting tournament last month raised $30,000.
“We’ve always been very community involved and aware,” Davidson said of the family-owned business. “We really wanted to touch local families in the area to give back.”
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty raises money to support children through its annual Backpack Challenge, now in its 17th year.
Before school began in August, the firm collected 1,011 backpacks filled with school supplies for children around the First Coast, beating last year’s record of 733 backpacks.
Company founder, president and CEO Linda Sherrer said she was “filled with gratitude” to the firm’s employees and clients for ensuring that so many children began the school year with the supplies needed for their success.
Berkshire Hathaway also supports Dreams Come True, an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
With every real estate transaction, the company makes a donation, which in the past three years has totaled more than $150,000.
“Our first dreamer is now doing great,” Sherrer said.
The dreamer chose to go to Discovery Cove in Orlando to swim with the dolphins and was able to bring his family. “So the whole family had fun,” she said.
Many Realtors get involved in philanthropic efforts through the Northeast Florida Realtors Association, said Communications Director Melanie Green.
One of the group’s largest events benefits Haven Hospice.
The NEFAR Charity Bass Fishing Tournament and Family Fun Day has been held annually for 13 years on the bank of the St. Johns River in downtown Palatka. Typically, 100 two-person teams compete for cash prizes.
To date, the association has donated $346,000 to Haven Hospice to support unreimbursed programs and services for patients and families.
They have also given the agency $25,000 to buy a truck and $26,000 to purchase a new large van.
In 2014, NEFAR members donated more than $25,000 and volunteer labor to Daniel Kids’ Independent Living Village to help homeless or abandoned youth.
The group also is an annual sponsor of the St. Johns Housing Partnership’s Make a Difference Day, builds wheelchair ramps for needy citizens through its Realtors Ramp It Up program.
NEFAR also donates to the annual Rodehaver Boys Ranch Kids Fishing Tournament and to the Judy Nicholson Kidney Cancer Foundation.
Some local builders and developers support individual company projects.
ICI Homes recently launched a charitable program to benefit Mayo Clinic Jacksonville. The company is developing Tamaya, minutes from the medical facility.
For every sale to Mayo employees or medical professionals, ICI Homes makes a $3,000 contribution to fund research and education at the campus.
Developer Ed Burr, president and CEO of GreenPointe Holdings, founded The Monique Burr Foundation for Children Inc. in 1997.
The developer, presently involved with TrailMark, a master-planned community in St. Johns County, created the foundation in honor of his wife, who died in 1996.
She had been an advocate for protecting children and the nonprofit focuses on child abuse prevention education, said spokeswoman Lynn Layton.
The MBF Child Safety Matters program, which serves children in kindergarten through sixth-grade, helps protects kids from bullying, cyber bullying and educates children and parents about digital safety and child abuse.
The program trains school counselors, who implement it in schools throughout the state.
“We have trained over 1.5 million students in the last five years,” Layton says. “And 2,200 school counselors, at no cost to the school.”
The foundation also launched a pilot program for middle school children, called MBF Teen Safety Matters to prevent child abuse and bullying among teenagers.
Like the elementary school project, it is research-based and aided by funding from a variety of other organizations, including the Attorney General’s Office, the state of Florida, the Mazda Foundation and Community First Cares Foundation, for which Burr said he is “thrilled and grateful.”
Rena Coughlin, CEO of the Nonprofit Center in Jacksonville, said giving back in general is much needed in the community, and efforts are much appreciated.
“Small local organizations are overwhelmingly dependent on contributions from private sources, like corporate foundations, individuals and families,” she said. “I extend that to include volunteer expertise on a board.”
People offering in-kind contributions are very important, she said. If someone has the expertise to volunteer to do something like fix a roof, “it can make a difference,” Coughlin said.
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