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2016 Realtor® Good Neighbor Award Winners Give Back to Communities


WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Over the last 17 years, the Good Neighbor Awards have recognized Realtors® who dedicate countless volunteer hours to help others.  The five individuals named as this year's REALTOR® Magazine Good Neighbor Award winners serve as an example of how Realtors® build and strengthen communities.

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The 2016 Good Neighbor Award winners are: Cindy Barrett, Keller Williams Realty, Spartanburg, South Carolina, co-founder of Christmas In Action; Susan Gruen Helsinger, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Merrick, New York, founder of The Jason F. Gruen Research Foundation; Ed Liebzeit, Jackson Hole Sotheby's International Realty, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, board president of Community Safety Network; Wyn Ray, Coldwell Banker Burnet, Chaska, Minnesota, for his aid work in Ethiopia; and Sarah Sorenson, Whale's Tail Realty Inc., Wailuku, Hawaii, founder of Realtors® Wishing Well…for Maui Students.

"This year's Good Neighbor Award winners have gone beyond the call of duty to improve communities around the U.S. and around the globe," says National Association of Realtors® President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Margate, Florida. "They touch the lives of those they serve in many positive ways while also maintaining successful careers in real estate and supporting their clients on a day-to-day basis."

Each of the five winners will receive a $10,000 grant for their cause and will be featured in the November/December issue of REALTOR® Magazine. The recipients will be presented with crystal trophies on Saturday, Nov. 5, during the 2016 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando.

The Good Neighbor Awards have been granted annually since 2000 and are presented by NAR's REALTOR® Magazine.  More than $1 million in grants have been awarded to the winners' charities since the inaugural award.

Cindy Barrett, Keller Williams Realty, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Cindy and her husband cofounded Christmas in Action in 1996 to help low-income people in their community remedy health and safety issues such as leaky roofs, electrical fire hazards and rotting floors. Since then, she has inspired thousands of volunteers — including college students from around the country who flock to Spartanburg to use their time off from school in a meaningful way — to complete free home repairs on more than 800 homes for low-income seniors, people with disabilities and veterans.

Susan Gruen Helsinger, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Merrick, New York
After her teenage son died suddenly at school from an undiagnosed heart abnormality, Helsinger was determined to do something to prevent similar tragedies. She founded The Jason F. Gruen Research Foundation and for 30 years, she has fought to bring awareness, fund research and equipment, and screen teen athletes so that those with cardiac issues can seek treatment. Helsinger has raised nearly $2 million to fund efforts to understand these ailments and diagnose them early.

Ed Liebzeit, Jackson Hole Sotheby's International Realty, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Liebzeit is board president of Community Safety Network, which provides shelter and advocacy to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Liebzeit, a Vietnam veteran, oversaw a strategic plan that emphasizes education and early intervention to encourage people in the community to recognize warning signs and refer potential victims. He has raised more than $450,000 since 2015.

Wyn Ray, Coldwell Banker Burnet, Chaska, Minnesota
Ray and his wife serve a very remote and forgotten area of Ethiopia. A former teacher, Ray created a cooperative effort with villagers in Wekin to improve living conditions and educational opportunities. Since 2008, the Rays, now partnering with the nonprofit New Covenant Foundation, have provided clean water and sanitation to 11,000 people.

Sarah Sorenson, Whale's Tail Realty Inc., Wailuku, Hawaii
Sorenson founded Realtors® Wishing Well...for Maui Students in 2007 to support the chronically underfunded public schools. Schools create wish lists of needed items, like school supplies, furniture and computer equipment. Then she finds donors to supply them. Wishing Well serves 23,000 students in 35 schools in Maui County with donations valued at $1.5 million

In addition to the winners, five Realtors® have been recognized as Good Neighbor Awards honorable mentions and will each receive $2,500 grants. Tommy Arnold, Keller Williams Louisville East, Louisville, Kentucky, founded the Feast On Equality fundraiser to support opportunities for LGBT students at the University of Louisville; Pam Harrison, RE/MAX Executive, Millersville, Maryland, enlists Realtors® to collect enormous amounts of food for the Anne Arundel County Food Bank; Danna Johnson, Crye-Leike, Realtors®, Jonesboro, Arkansas, has fulfilled wishes for 50 children with life-threatening medical conditions for Make-A-Wish® Mid-South; Vince Mirabelli, RE/MAX First Choice Realty, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, has raised nearly $500,000 and personally funded a pediatric endowment for Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation; and Rhonda & Jerry Overberg, RE/MAX Best Choice, St. Louis, Missouri, founded the annual St. Louis Night of Superstars to recognize children with special needs.

During the month of September, the public cast nearly 42,000 votes for the 10 Good Neighbor Award finalists to determine who would be named the Web Choice winner. The Good Neighbor finalist with the most votes was Danna JohnsonCrye-Leike, Realtors®, Jonesboro, Arkansas, who will receive an additional $1,000 bonus donation for Make-A-Wish® Mid South courtesy of® in addition to the $2,500 she earned for being a finalist. Johnson has fulfilled wishes for more than 50 children with life-threatening medical conditions and has raised more than $3 million.

REALTOR® Magazine 's Good Neighbor Awards is supported by primary sponsor® and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Nominees were judged on their personal contribution of time as well as financial and material contributions to benefit their cause. To be eligible, nominees must be NAR members in good standing. More information about the Good Neighbor Awards winners is available at® is the trusted resource for home buyers, sellers and dreamers, offering the most comprehensive database of for-sale properties, among competing national sites, and the information, tools and professional expertise to help people move confidently through every step of their home journey. As the official site of the National Association of Realtors®,® pioneered the world of digital real estate 20 years ago, and today helps make all things home simple, efficient and enjoyable.® is operated by News Corp [NASDAQ: NWS, NWSA] [ASX: NWS, NWSLV] subsidiary Move, Inc. For more information, visit®.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is the nation's leading originator and servicer of residential mortgages, offering home loans to consumers through the country's largest network of mortgage locations and bank branches, online, and via phone. With more than 7,500 Home Mortgage Consultants across the country and robust digital capabilities, Wells Fargo is committed to meeting Realtor® expectations and homebuyer needs. Focused on a culture of caring for communities, Wells Fargo is a proud new sponsor of the Good Neighbor Awards to recognize the extraordinary contributions made by Realtors® in the communities where we, together, live and serve. 

The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing over 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Information about NAR is available at This and other news releases are posted in the "News, Blogs and Videos" tab on the website.

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SOURCE National Association of Realtors

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