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Texas and Florida Council Members Step Up to Help Others

by Carol Weinrich Helsel

Hurricane ArticleThe names "Harvey" and "Irma" will be ingrained in the memory of most Americans for years – particularly those living in south Texas and Florida who felt the greatest impact of the recent hurricanes. Many in the Women’s Council family were directly affected and the Council is actively promoting contributions to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation which, in the two weeks following the storms, raised $1.2 million.

For Council members looking for a way to help, the Foundation is a great option. One hundred percent of all donations go to victims of natural disasters, with NAR covering administrative expenses. Donations support housing-related aid such as mortgage and rental assistance. Since being established in 2001 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Foundation has raised more than $26 million. To make a tax-deductible donation, visit nar.realtor/rrf.

As impressive as the Foundation is, some Council members chose to get involved on a more personal level, including Amy Montanye (Texas) and Kristin Triolo (Florida).  

Getting Supplies to Houston Becomes a Personal Journey

Tyler (Texas) Network president Amy Montanye’s father lives on a ranch near Houston and was committed to staying put through Harvey to take care of his animals. "After losing communication due to the storm, I cried all weekend, thinking of my father and I knew I needed to do something to help," says Amy. And help she did.

Amy called an emergency meeting of the Tyler Network which agreed to spearhead a collection of supplies most needed by flood victims, including food, personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies and water. Information was posted on the Network’s website, but it was a post on Facebook that really took off. Soon, Network members and others began responding. One Affiliate member offered a trailer and a colleague offered a second one. Within a week the group filled both trailers with supplies.

"The Network became like a command center," says Amy. "Word got out and we started hearing from people who could help and from people who needed help. The Red Cross was not yet organized and the Salvation Army was calling our volunteers to tell us what was needed."

At 4am on a Sunday morning, Amy and her team left Tyler to make the four hour-drive to Houston, but encountered problems at planned distribution points. They located a large local furniture store that had been converted into an evacuation center — full of people in desperate need of the supplies. Then, on to a nearby church (also in need of supplies) where the Tyler volunteers became part of the morning mass.

It all seemed fitting to Amy, who says the entire experience was a journey with God. "During the week many would ask, 'Why are you doing this?' and I'd think, 'Why would I not?'" Amy admits to occasionally being frustrated that everyone didn’t share her same level of passion, but during that Sunday mass in Houston she realized this was her personal journey and that everyone must find their own path to helping others. Amy certainly found hers. And, if you were wondering, Amy’s father and his animals are fine.

Helping Those Who Came to HelpCharities Article

Several days after Irma passed through Florida, Sarasota member Kristin Triolo got an email from a colleague in Cape Coral who wanted to provide some home cooked meals and much-needed laundry service to a group of out-of-state linemen who had traveled to Florida to help restore power.

"She asked me to help her get the word out," says Kristin, who used Facebook to post and private message nearly 20 Council friends and Florida Network executives. "Friends from all over started commenting and I learned about REALTORS® in Ft. Myers who had adopted linemen working in their area."

Kristin also heard about a group of Alabama linemen who had been sleeping in their truck for five nights. "While I don’t live in the area they were working, I knew Council members there and used the online Council Directory to reach out to share my idea about how Women’s Council might help."

Kristin says all this got her to thinking that the Women’s Council in Florida could start a network for such needs. So many great efforts support the victims, but we don’t always think about those who are there to help and what they may need. "We have so many caring people in our network; it just seems like it would be an easy thing to do."

Since then Kristin has been busy using her network to spread the word about the needs of linemen and to offer assistance in coordinating things. She’s even been in touch with electrical contractors to connect those who want to help with linemen in need of support.

She’s also testing the waters with her Florida network about putting together some type of communications system and set of protocols for future use. So far, she’s getting lots of positive feedback. While hopefully there won’t be a need any time soon, thanks to Kristin, it looks like Florida Council members will be ready.

Using the Network

The network is one of the greatest benefits of affiliation in the Women’s Council of REALTORS®. And while many Council members think of this network as being best used for business or to build a career, these two stories illustrate the power of the Women’s Council network to help those in need and make a significant impact in the community.


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