Helping Hands: IREM Chapters across the Country Make a Difference through Community Service

Article excerpt

Time is not money--at least when it comes to community service. More than 65 million Americans engaged in volunteer work between September 2004 and September 2005, according to information from the Corporation for National & Community Service. Nearly 28 percent of volunteers reported contributing between 100 and 499 hours of service free of charge in 2005.

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It might seem little time exists for such good old-fashioned altruism in the real estate management business--where dealing with tenants and residents, solving problems and juggling responsibilities is more than a 9-to-5 job.

Real estate managers are finding the time, though--whether it's to swing a golf club for a cause or show off handyman skills to fix a property in disrepair. As a result, they're experiencing personal and professional rewards.

GIVING BACK PAYS BACK

Many professionals are able to commit more time and resources to community service projects in part because of supportive employers or industry associations.

Companies and professional associations recognize they can make a difference in the communities they serve. Therefore, they facilitate opportunities and offer resources for employees and members to do good works through thoughtful community service programs.

"Companies have a responsibility to their shareholders, but part of that responsibility is to ensure the communities where they do business are the best they can be," said James van der Klok, vice president at United Way of America, which works on community service projects with corporations nationwide.

Companies bettering their communities might be indirectly improving their bottom line at the same time. Socially conscious companies often benefit from improved public image as well as stronger local communities made up of consumers and potential employees.

Eight out of 10 Americans said they trust companies supportive of service-oriented causes, according to the 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, commissioned by Cone Inc., a strategy and communications agency engaged in branding and marketing companies. In addition, 74 percent of survey respondents said a company's commitment to a social issue influences which products and services they recommend to others.

Professional organizations are similarly attempting to shed a positive light on their industries through socially responsible causes and programs. Many IREM chapters facilitate community outreach programs to demonstrate their commitment to society and not just the industry.

"It's important for these [industry] organizations to show everyone else we're not just about property management, but we care about people too," said Chris Thomas, CPM and president-elect of IREM Chapter 64 in Arkansas.

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MISSION POSSIBLE

While organizations and companies may have much to give, deciding where to allot their time and money can be difficult. For real estate professionals, the perfect community service initiative might involve improving a property or choosing a cause directly affecting a colleague.

The success of any community service initiative hinges on choosing a mission that makes sense and sparks passion, said Julie Dowrey, IREM associate executive for IREM Chapter 24 in Indianapolis. She said picking the right cause will inspire more people to volunteer.

"People have to find something that is a natural fit, something that speaks to them in terms of what they do for a living," Dowrey said. "If you find the right place and the right [cause], you can get your members to join in on anything that makes sense."

The Indianapolis chapter's Closets for Coburn project made sense for its membership because it involved improving a property's living spaces, Dowrey said. The property--Coburn Place Safe Haven--is a transition home for women and children who are homeless as a result of domestic violence. …