When April rolls around, our minds turn to thoughts of Fair Housing – and in Frederick, Md., where the city leadership is staunchly aligned with the REALTORS® recognizing Fair Housing as a top priority, they weren’t going to let a major public health crisis dim the spotlight.
Eileen Barnhard, who has chaired the Frederick County Association of REALTORS®’ Fair Housing Council for many years, explains that the City of Frederick and the 1,200-member REALTOR® board have a well-established partnership when it comes to promoting Fair Housing, culminating every April in a robust Fair Housing Conference. When the pandemic made it impossible this year, she and her four-member council pivoted to produce an online event. “Since we weren’t going to be able to offer the courses and legislative information that typically fill the conference agenda, our goal was to create a brief but engaging video highlighting our Fair Housing education and community outreach,” says Barnhard. They had the perfect focus: The 2020 Fair Housing Art Contest.
The annual contest on a given Fair Housing theme is for students from elementary through high school, and had long been sponsored by the Maryland REALTORS®. When the state association opted out of the contest this year, the Frederick County Association was glad to continue the tradition for local students, making it the colorful centerpiece of the Fair Housing Conference.
Brenda Fisher, FCAR’s Communications Manager, explains that Barnhard’s vision for the video was the ideal platform to celebrate and share the efforts of all the young contest entrants, which would normally happen publicly, at the conference. “We had put together a great poster to market the contest, and reached out to the Frederick County Public Schools, as we have in the past. We received more than sixty terrific entries, and then faced the very difficult task of choosing winners.” She notes that a particularly heartening aspect of this year’s contest, whose theme was “Fair Housing of the Future,” was that there was a consistent awareness of racial diversity in the entries. “I had expected lots of “Jetson-esque” futuristic pictures, but what comes through loud and clear in the artwork is a real sensitivity to this core issue of Fair Housing. That bodes well for the future as much as any rocket ship!”
The city’s mayor normally issues an annual proclamation recognizing the importance of Fair Housing, and this year, he graciously recorded it to open the video. This was followed by a welcome from Elin Ross, Chair of the City of Frederick’s Fair Housing Commission; a video reveal of the winners in each age category; and delightful remarks from a few of the winners. Barnhard herself closed the video with thanks to all involved.
FCAR had received a REALTOR® Party Fair Housing Grant to support the conference, and monies that would have been allocated to conference expenses are instead being used to celebrate the young contest winners and extend awareness of the Fair Housing message: a festive drive-by parade will deliver congratulatory yard signs, Maryland flags, pizza and cookies to households of the winning artists. When gatherings are deemed safe again, a reception will be held at the local art center, with all the entries exhibited.
“We are so grateful to the National Association of REALTORS® and the REALTOR® Party for their strong support of our Fair Housing efforts,” says Barnhard. “This year, they pivoted right with us to help ensure that the pandemic didn’t shut down our message!”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Frederick County adapted their annual celebration of Fair Housing for the lock-down, and through the eyes of the next generation, contact FCAR Communications Manager Brenda Fisher at 301-663-0757, or Eileen Barnhard.