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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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Realtor View: Make a difference in 2014

Chaille Ralp, Houston Chronicle
Published 6:55 pm, Friday, January 3, 2014
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We at the Houston Association of Realtors typically devote this column to a discussion of the various aspects of real estate to help you and other readers understand the challenges and responsibilities of homeownership, home buying and home selling. However, as I begin my HAR chairmanship, I'd like to use this column to focus on our community with a slightly different angle.

The holiday season that's just concluded, and the unique way in which it taps people's inner goodness, always brings solicitations for volunteers. Many Realtors volunteer during the holidays and throughout the year. They see the value in giving back to and improving our community.

People often donate items to charitable organizations or give nonperishable food to local food banks, support causes like toy drives or give money to a worthy cause.

But even if times are tight and you can't spare any cash or purchase any items, you can still donate your time. Where would a soup kitchen be without the volunteers who serve the food? Where would an adult-education center be if no one wanted to teach adult-literacy classes?

The point is that you almost certainly have something valuable to contribute, so whether you offer your time, donate items, give money, or do some combination of the three, take a look at the community and identify a need that speaks to you. Then address it.

Why volunteer?

When it comes down to it, reasons to volunteer are very personal. At its root, volunteering involves the desire to help and serve, but volunteers also gain a tremendous amount from the experience.

Most people volunteer just to help others, but there is nothing wrong with drawing some benefit for yourself, too. Sure, the real beneficiaries of your volunteer work will be those whom you directly help. But there's more to it than that. In addition to investing in the community, you can also meet people, exchange ideas, get a break from your daily routine, learn valuable new skills and more.

Volunteering also is an excellent opportunity to be a positive role model. People, especially children, follow others' examples. This can be a great way to teach kids about compassion and the importance of selfless actions.

No one wants to think about themselves being in a rough spot, but the truth is that many people will eventually find themselves in need at some point in their lives. Today you may be the person helping; tomorrow you may find yourself in a position of need.

The holiday season may technically be over now. But I ask that you please not forget about these important causes throughout our community.

Realtors understand the value of a strong community. Nothing adds strength to our city and neighborhoods like involved residents. So, from a quality-of-life perspective, your participation adds value to your community.

Times are tough for many in our community, and everyone's time is valuable. We all know that. And that's why I maintain that it's more important now than ever to offer a helping hand. For great ideas on how you can help, check out VolunteerMatch.org.

Remember - a community can only be as strong as its residents make it.

Chaille Ralph of Heritage Texas Properties is the 2014 chair of the Houston Association of Realtors.