House Hunter: When Realtors Give Back

Santa Barbara’s real estate industry supports the community.

“So many of our members do charitable efforts; we can’t keep track of them all.”

So said Bob Hart, executive officer of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors a few days before Christmas. That was a few days after the association’s 22nd annual holiday fundraiser for Unity Shoppe, which provides food, clothing, job training, senior services, and a Santa’s Toy Shoppe, among its many offerings.

The event boosted Unity over its annual goal of $50,000. Stepping up big to help hit that number was Village Properties, which gave $5,000, and Berkshire Hathaway and Sotheby’s, both of which chipped in over $7,500. Those levels were more than double their gifts in previous years. Why?

“Tom Reed [Unity’s executive director] and I went around to their offices and made PowerPoint presentations, talking about Unity and what it does,” said Unity Committee chair Alyson Spann. “The agents really understood and gave more because of it. The need is great, and they were very generous.”

The Association of Realtors also runs an annual golf tournament, which this year raised $38,000 for Katie’s FUNd, which supports teens with developmental disabilities. And there are dozens more, from the millions raised by Village Properties for the Teacher’s Fund to the free Santa photos provided by Berkshire Hathaway.

Some of these campaigns have been underway a long time. The Association of Realtors’ support of Unity Shoppe is a venerable example, dating all the way back to 1917. But that doesn’t mean new ones aren’t welcome. For instance, Venturelli Group has begun Give Back Santa Barbara, a three-pronged program aimed at doing just that.

“Santa Barbara has given us so much,” said Gabe Venturelli, creator of the movement. “We want to give back. We’ve seen people go through hardships. We’re here for them.”

The heart of Give Back S.B. is the company’s donation of 10 percent of every transaction to the charity of their clients’ choice. Give Back, which was launched early this year, has already given $21,500 to groups including the Santa Barbara Humane Society, Clear Waterways, and Hospice of Santa Barbara.

Prong two involves donation drives for the community to aid the causes. Prong three is volunteering, such as Give Back’s efforts to help clean beaches after the Refugio Oil Spill in May. “We were one of the first [teams] on the scene,” Venturelli said. “We cleared more than 300 pounds of oil, so it was a huge success.”

Though Give Back’s focus will tend to be on Santa Barbara first, other serious needs will get consideration. That was the case with the Nepal earthquake in April. “It was too huge to let go,” Venturelli said. Give Back S.B. hosted two fundraisers, attended by some 500 supporters, with Himalayan music, art, and prayer flags, raising over $10,000. “It was a beautiful celebration,” said Venturelli, who works in collaboration with his father, longtime Santa Barbara realtor Bruce Venturelli.

“What Bruce and Gabe are doing sounds incredibly good,” said Bob Hart of the Association of Realtors.

Gabe likes to quote Winston Churchill on the subject of helping others: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Applying that to business, he said, “We’re committed to redesigning real estate, from transactions to interactions.” The recent donation of 10 percent of proceeds from a home sale to the Humane Society was a good example. “It was an amazing feeling — real estate with a purpose. There’s nothing better than giving back.”


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