Habitat for Humanity

Among the Burbank realtors who traded business suits for work clothes were, from left, Marion Chase, Chris Habitz, Julian Munoz, Paul Sessum, Beth Bowles, Robert Clark, Melissa Mendigorin and Tiffanie Misner. (Photo by David Laurell)

While real estate agents are known for their professional service in the buying and selling of houses, rarely are they known for actually building them. That, however, was the case as members of the Burbank Association of Realtors (BAR) took up shovels, hammers and trowels to assist in the construction of Centennial House — the Habitat for Humanity project underway on Eliot Drive near Earthwalk Park this past Friday.

Operating under the auspices of the association’s charitable arm — the Burbank Association of Realtors Community Service Foundation (CSF) — local Realtors and affiliates joined forces by passing on their business-as-usual suits and skirts and donning T-shirts, shorts, jeans and work boots to participate in the grittier side of the housing business.

Led by CSF president, Chris Habitz and Alexandra Kelly, who serves as the association president, nail-pounding, wall-raising and earth-moving board members included Chris Rizzotti, Dana Russo, Marion Chase, who donated the day’s lunch, Marty Del Cid, Karen Volpei Gussow and Dan Soderstrom.

“In addition to contributing $2,500 to the project, 20 BAR and CSF members wanted to actually be involved in this work day project,” said Soderstrom. “The response by our membership to get involved has been overwhelming. We could have had many more volunteers; however, Habitat for Humanity limits the daily number of any one organization’s volunteers to no more than 20.”

Among those who volunteered and others who stopped by to lend support were Eric Benz, Julian Munoz, Caleb Gonzalez, Paul Sessum, Beth Bowles, Tammy Tapia, Marion Goodman, Judy Tanke, Meegan BeVere, Melissa and Tiffanie Misner, Robert Clark, Melisa Mendigorin and Lisa Matzner.

The support of this project, by their financial contribution and sweat equity, is a continuation of the Burbank Realtors’ long-standing commitment to the community. BAR and CSF have been actively involved with numerous local charitable organizations and causes for many years. “We’re probably most noted for our large college scholarship program which has given literally thousands of dollars to Burbank high school seniors as they embark on their college educations,” said Soderstrom. “I believe the program is one of the most generous of its kind relative to similar scholarship programs.”

Last year, while planning for the organization’s main fundraiser, the CSF Auction, scheduled for September 15 at their Magnolia Boulevard headquarters, Soderstrom said the Realtors did an organizational “soul search” in which they reorganized and reformulated their mission and clarified how they wanted to move forward in supporting the Burbank community. “We are making an effort to broaden our outreach in an effort to serve the community more effectively,” Soderstrom added. “While 50 percent of our budget will still be designated to our signature scholarship program, we are also expanding our outreach. We recently presented $1,000 to Family Promise, which helps homeless families in conjunction with Burbank churches and synagogues. Of course being Realtors, supporting various aspects of housing, such as Family Promise and Habitat for Humanity, is something my fellow CSF trustees and board Members thought was a perfect fit.”

Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity’s concept of “partnership housing” centers on those in need, working with volunteers to build houses at no profit and for which no interest is charged on loans. Building costs are financed by “The Fund for Humanity” a revolving fund that comes from loan payments and fundraising activities. The organization received national and international prominence in 1984, when it was embraced by former-President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. Their involvement generated tremendous interest that has today seen Habitat for Humanity build more than 400,000 houses to shelter more than two million people worldwide.