WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Association of Realtors today announced the 10 finalists for its 2023 Good Neighbor Awards, which honor NAR members who make an extraordinary difference in their communities through volunteer work. Now in its 24th year, the Good Neighbor Awards recognize volunteers who donate time, money and passion to enrich the lives of people in their communities.
“Each year, the Good Neighbor Awards serve as a poignant reminder of the heart and soul of our real estate community,” said NAR President Tracy Kasper. “It’s not just about buying or selling properties; it’s about investing in the places we call home. These finalists exemplify the essence of what it means to be a good neighbor, turning their passion and dedication into real-world change.”
Five winners will each receive a $10,000 grant and national media exposure for their charity, including a feature in the fall issue of REALTOR® Magazine. The winners will also be honored in November during NAR NXT, The REALTOR® Experience, in Anaheim, California. Five honorable mentions will receive $2,500 grants.
Starting now, the public can vote for their favorite Good Neighbor finalists. The top three vote-getters will be recognized as Web Choice Favorites, the winner will take home $2,500, and the second- and third-place finishers will each receive $1,250, funded by Realtor.com®. Cast your vote at realtor.com/goodneighbor between August 31 and October 1. Both the winners, as determined by judges, and the Web Choice Favorites, determined by online voting, will be announced on October 5.
The 10 NAR Good Neighbor Awards finalists are as follows:
Debbie Arakaki, Compass, Lahaina, Hawaii
In the state with the nation’s highest food costs, Debbie Arakaki has raised funds to provide more than one million meals through the Maui Food Bank. Since 2015, Arakaki has rallied the real estate community to host food drives, run fundraisers and volunteer for food-packing events. Now, in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires, she is amping up her efforts to help thousands of families who lost their homes. She and a group of other long-time Maui residents created the Maui Pono Foundation to provide immediate funds to neighbors in need.
Betsy Brint, @properties, Highland Park, Illinois
A 10-year volunteer with the Highland Park Community Foundation, Betsy Brint led the response after a mass shooting occurred at the 2022 Independence Day Parade in her hometown. She oversaw the distribution of $5.8 million to the families of the deceased, injured victims and nonprofit organizations that provide mental health, legal and other services to community members affected by the shooting.
Karen DeMarco, Coldwell Banker Residential Realty, Tenafly, New Jersey
Karen DeMarco was inspired by her community’s support during her battle with breast cancer and decided to pay it forward. Within three years, DeMarco went from cooking meals in her kitchen to co-founding The Food Brigade, a food pantry network that has provided more than 1,700 tons of food to tens of thousands of people in three New Jersey counties.
Rick Furnish, Landmark Realty & Development Co., Spearfish, South Dakota
A foster parent and adoptive parent, Rick Furnish brought America’s Kids Belong to South Dakota and created a collaborative relationship between the state, faith community, local businesses and the arts community to improve outcomes for kids in the foster care system. He launched “I Belong” videos, which have given nearly 150 kids a voice as they wait to be adopted. Furnish has also spent 20 years volunteering with Hope Ranch International.
Kasia Maslanka, Douglas Elliman, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Kasia Maslanka co-founded Morningday Community Solutions to redirect overstocked or returned excess merchandise from retail businesses to nonprofits and people who need it. Over 13 years, they’ve saved nonprofits $9 million in spending and have diverted over 400 tons of unused products from landfills each year.
Jed Nilson, Nilson Homes, Ogden, Utah
Jed Nilson has built 15 homes through the Northern Wasatch Association of REALTORS®’ Have a Heart Foundation, which sells the homes to families in need at a deep discount. His company, subcontractors and suppliers have donated millions of dollars in labor and supplies to make these dream homes a reality. Nilson is also building a resource center for the nonprofit Encircle to support LGBTQ+ youth and families.
Irene Sawyer, Keller Williams High Country, Boone, North Carolina
A breast cancer survivor, Irene Sawyer founded the High Country Breast Cancer Foundation, which eases the burden of medical bills for cancer patients. The nonprofit funds wigs, mastectomy bras, breast prostheses and other cancer-related garments. They also contribute to the college funds of surviving children and have brought a mammogram bus to the area for the first time.
Sandra Shank, Tag Ventures Real Estate Services Co., Palm Coast, Florida
In 2003, Sandra Shank opened Abundant Life Ministries–Hope House Inc. to give troubled teenage boys in Florida’s foster care system a supportive foundation. For 20 years, she has housed and mentored 300 of the most vulnerable boys and now plans to break ground on an affordable housing project to provide holistic care for troubled families.
Steven Sharpe, Keller Williams Realty, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Steven Sharpe co-founded Camp Horizon with his wife, Lindsey, to offer a summer camp experience to kids who have physical disabilities like paralysis, spina bifida or cerebral palsy. Since 2005, the camp has engaged more than 500 kids in accessible activities such as canoeing, horseback riding and fishing. To ensure the children’s happiness and safety, the camp has more than 50 volunteer counselors, many with medical training.
Anita and Jay Sherley, Big Sky Brokers LLC, Helena, Montana
Anita and Jay Sherley provide stable housing and mentoring to at-risk young men and women, many of whom are homeless, recently released from jail or too old for foster care. In the 16 years since they founded Life Houses Inc., the Sherleys have helped more than 200 at-risk young adults build life skills to transition to productive, goal-oriented lives of purpose.
NAR’s Good Neighbor Awards are supported by primary sponsor Realtor.com® as well as the Center for REALTOR® Development.
“We continue to be inspired by the positive change the Good Neighbor Award finalists are making in their communities across the country,” said Realtor.com® CMO Mickey Neuberger. “They serve as role models not just for their fellow real estate agents, but for everyone else who comes in contact with them. Realtor.com® is once again proud to recognize the differences they’re making.”
Nominees were judged on their personal contribution of time as well as financial and material contributions to benefit their cause.