Realtors take pride in serving communities off the job

  • Real estate agents Dave Chidyllo, left, and Jim Rosenberger at the Falvey Real Estate Group offices Thursday April 20, 2017 in Albany, NY. They donate 10% of their commission to a charity of their clients' choice in a new initiative, Agents for Change.   (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Photo: John Carl D'Annibale / 20040267A



Real estate agent Dave Chidyllo has the blood-clotting disorder hemophilia A. It doesn’t affect his daily life, but he carries the knowledge that an accident that would cause only minor injuries to someone else could kill him. He also carries the memories of his summers as a camper at Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne and the people who made it possible for a kid required to be cautious to also have fun. As an adult, he returned the favor as a counselor at Double H. As a Realtor, he looked for ways to carry his charitable spirit further.

Chidyllo and his partner at the Falvey Real Estate Group, Jim Rosenberger, founded a team, Agents for Change. Every time one of their clients buys or sells a house, Chidyllo and Rosenberger donate 10 percent of their commission to a charity of their client’s choosing. Their first deal since forming Agents for Change netted just less than $300 for the Child Life Program at Albany Medical Center.

As Realtors, the men are not alone in their philanthropic approach.

A 2016 profile of Realtors by the National Association of Realtors found 71 percent of agents volunteer in their communities.

Donating time and money is part of the approach for both the local trade group and the national franchises doing business locally. The Greater Capital Association of Realtors, which oversees the local multiple listing services, asks its more than 3,000 members to donate $10 twice a year when they renew their memberships. A committee chooses how to donate the money. Members have donated $220,000 since 2001. In 2014, in addition to donating money, GCAR stepped up its presence in the community. Members participate in annual events at Double H Ranch, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region and others suggested by individual members.

A cynic might ask if all this feel-good stuff might be guided by a more pragmatic goal: finding clients. But Laura Burns, CEO of GCAR, said the only recruiting she’s seen agents do is to bring friends to volunteer alongside them.

While volunteerism and donating to charitable organizations occur in many industries, Realtors’ flexible schedules allow them to build a flower bed or install insulation in a Habitat for Humanity house on a random Tuesday afternoon, when many other people are at a desk all day.

Marie Bettini, a Realtor for 26 years and founder of the Albany Realty Group, said giving back to the community is something real estate agents believe in, because the community supports them.

“Call any Realtor, go down our 3,200-member list, and you’ll find they’re giving time, energy and money to something,” she said.

Bettini said she made donations through the years to various charities, but in 2013, she was galvanized by the death of a homeless woman in Saratoga Springs. “It really struck my heart, because everyone should have a home,” she said.

Bettini said the day after the news broke, she called the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless in Albany and committed to making a donation after every closing her company makes, whether the agent worked for the buyer or the seller. In 2016, Albany Realty Group donated $1,200.

While some agents donate quietly, others use social media.

A fundraising campaign for Best Buddies, led by Jay Christiana, president of Berkshire Hathaway Blake, and Brian Brosen of RealtyUSA raised nearly $170,000 this year. Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization that pairs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with volunteers with the aim of fostering lifelong friendships. Brosen and his family attended the Friendship Walk, a Best Buddies event, for the first time three years ago, joined the advisory board of the Best Buddies Capital Region last year and led corporate fundraising. This year he and Christiana were co-chair of the 2017 Friendship Walk.

Brosen, who leads the Capital Team at RealtyUSA, said he likes being part of something local because he can see the impact of his effort.

“I feel we have a responsibility to be good neighbors, and that is what this is about. Best Buddies is an organization that needs money and visibility, and it touches a lot of people,” Brosen said.