Several employees and associates from RE/MAX Select Realty’s Center Township office gathered at Center for Hope in Ambridge last Thursday to support community members in need. Nearly 20 people arrived at the center, located at 740 Park Rd., at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 5, and spent the next two-plus hours preparing and serving nutritious meals from Shop-and-Save to approximately 150 food insecure people.
Center for Hope, a multi-denominational faith-based charity, provides services for the low-income population of Ambridge. With a multitude of programs, ranging from pre-employment classes for adults to Home Store — which helps families stock or replace basic household items — the center’s mission is to help its “neighbors in need to break the bonds of poverty and lead independent lives.” One initiative in particular, the Young Entrepreneur Program, caught the attention of Sales Director Joann Gennaro. She volunteered at a Shark Tank event in October 2015, and it fueled her altruistic passion to provide support within the community.
“There was a program called ‘Barracuda Tank,’ which is similar to ‘Shark Tank,'” Gennaro explained. “Children were presenting their business ideas, then collecting money from the investors. They’d take that money, open bank accounts, and develop business plans. I thought, ‘this is great,’ because it’s important for these kids to have good business sense, and to know how to open bank accounts. One girl, in particular, was saving her money to buy her mom a new car. The car that her family used had to be over 30-years-old. That’s where it started for me. I wanted to know how [RSR] could help.”
Coincidentally, Gennaro’s co-worker and fellow real estate associate Kim Hostetter attended the same event. After learning that Hostetter’s mother, Sue Otto, served as the director of Center for Hope, Gennaro found a way for RSR to get involved.
“[Joann] had mentioned that she wanted to see what we could do to help,” Hostetter said. “So, I talked to my mom, and she said to see if [RE/MAX Select Realty] would do a community dinner. Joann said that was great, and the owners were generous enough to fund it. These people don’t get nice meals very often, so it’s really a treat for them.”
Otto, who started working with Center for Hope in 2007, was given an ultimatum – build the center up, or close it down. By 2010, the organization had provided services over 26,000 times by way of food and clothing distribution. While she dedicates her focus to philanthropy on a full-time basis, Otto is still amazed at the support the center receives from outside companies in other industries, such as RE/MAX Select Realty, that volunteer their resources to support the center’s mission.
“It’s interesting to watch,” Otto said. “Sometimes a community like this can feel forgotten, so when a successful company like RE/MAX [Select Realty] shows that it cares, it’s really special. It goes beyond just giving food, and that’s evident when you [hear from] the children. After the meal, one child walked up said, ‘you could be home with your families right now, but you chose to be with us.’ They are so appreciative. What better feeling is there than to help feed someone?”
According to Gennaro, this event was the first of many to come for RE/MAX Select Realty, in regards to volunteer efforts. Her goal is to host monthly volunteer events, and include each of the other seven offices, as well as RSR’s ancillary closing company, KEYMAX Settlement Services.
“This is where I want this company to go,” Gennaro added. “We are so fortunate to work in a business like this…one that allows us to give back.”
In addition to its associates’ and offices’ individual endeavors, RSR, as a company, collects donations from each real estate transaction and hosts annual golf outings that support local charities in the greater Pittsburgh area. To learn more about Center for Hope, or to get involved, visit its website at TheCenterForHope.com.