Tuesday mornings typically find Wilmington, North Carolina REALTORS® taking care of administrative business and connecting with colleagues, but this past April 5, 580 members of the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS® (WRAR) got out of the office for its second annual REALTOR® Action Day—aka “RAD.” Some of the REALTOR®-volunteers made music at local senior centers; others planted sea oats and marsh grass to stem erosion along vulnerable coastlines; still more cleaned up and landscaped a handful of county parks. On the grounds of St. John’s Episcopal Church, nearly 100 WRAR members built a sizeable community garden, and installed two park benches and a tool shed, using a $3,000 Placemaking Micro-Grant from the REALTOR® Party.
The eleven raised garden beds will be planted and cared for by members of the community and the church, including children at the St. John’s preschool. The produce they raise will become nutritious ingredients at the Good Shepherd Center, a downtown soup kitchen serving more than 150 neighbors a day.
The garden project, along with the 18 other activities that took place on REALTOR® Action Day, was organized by WRAR’s energetic Community Affairs Committee, who motivated, mobilized and coordinated all the preparation that took place before the volunteers arrived on site for their two-hour events. The morning’s work strengthened bonds between the REALTORS® and the local non-profits and municipal agencies involved, including the New Hanover County Department of Parks & Gardens.
To find a good location for the community garden, says WRAR President Don Harris, the committee tapped into its relationships with community gardener groups and shops, who helped to identify plots of land that were ‘shovel ready.’ “We’re not a small community,” he explains, “but we’re tight-knit!” Since churches tend to be central to most communities in the area, their available land has been ideal for this use. Last year, at Devon United Methodist Church, WRAR built a similar community garden that is maintained by Burmese refugees. This particular demographic, explains Harris, not only values the ability to grow the produce particular to their homeland, that which southerners understand as ‘comfort food,’ but they also appreciate the link to the agrarian life they left behind. Both gardens were installed in collaboration with Wilmington Green, a local non-profit organization.
The gardens are intended to be both educational and beneficial, says Harris. People walking dogs and strollers, or jogging or biking along cross city trails, see the gardens, enjoy the greenery and spread the word. “These projects truly connect everyone,” he notes, adding that it makes sense that REALTORS®, natural networkers, are spearheading efforts that create such connectivity within the community. He also points out that REALTOR® Action Day coincides with Wilmington’s annual Azalea Festival, which begins the following day. “The day was perfectly timed to elevate Wilmington’s curb-appeal, and beautify our communities for the national stage.”
The REALTOR® Action Day projects go a long way toward maintaining WRAR’s reputation for civic good in the community, between the high-visibility teal REALTOR® t-shirts worn by the hundreds of volunteers, with red tees worn by the REALTOR® Commercial Alliance members and the significant media coverage that the projects attracted. Even City of Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, who happens to be a REALTOR®, took a good-humored turn shoveling horse “fertilizer” at the new garden. Harris said they hope to mobilize 750 members in 2017.
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Wilmington are serving their community in matters far beyond real estate, contact Shane Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of the Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS®, at 910-202-1586.