In the real estate business, finding homes for clients is the obvious goal. Keller Williams  Classic Realty Northwest—based in Maple Grove for over a decade—improves the meaning of home by consistently giving back.
“All of our agents have a commitment to giving back to the community, but some just don’t know exactly how,” says Jennifer Olstad, a Keller Williams realtor who’s been a part of the giving program called KW Cares for years. Through the program, the company organizes volunteering and giving opportunities throughout the year. At the company’s annual holiday party—which includes a wine raffle and silent auction to benefit KW Cares—Keller Williams’ 300-or-so staff members read about referred families and can choose to give financially. While situations vary, many are dealing with the death or illness of a loved one, extended unemployment or other desperate circumstances.
Reading those stories is often an emotional experience for the Keller Williams staff. “It sets you back a bit and makes you really grateful,” Olstad says. While at first the Keller Williams staff would buy and wrap specific gifts that were requested by the family, the process got cumbersome as the program grew. Now families provide an estimated dollar amount that would help the most, and KW Cares distributes prepaid VISA gift cards.
“We provide ‘an assist’—they can utilize it however they feel appropriate,” Olstad explains. She knows of people struggling to pay rent or utility bills, or women who have left an abusive relationship with their kids and the clothes on their backs. In those circumstances, a little cash can go a long way. In 2016, the organization gave about $22,000 in VISA gift cards—most valued between $250 and $500.
Dale Mallberg is a Vietnam veteran who had such a wonderful experience at the VA hospital that he decided to become a regular volunteer 11 years ago. He’s since become a well-networked champion of veterans in the Maple Grove area, working closely with KW Cares to reach out to veterans in need.
“Every chance I get, I try to get Keller Williams in front of people,” Mallberg says. Because of strict privacy laws—and the humble nature of most veterans—Mallberg admits it’s sometimes tough to navigate the system and find a way to support veterans in a direct, efficient and meaningful way, “but Keller Williams found a way to help.” Their consistent support of veterans and others has been inspiring to him and others with whom he comes in contact. At the annual Christmas party, Mallberg has a chance to share with attendees the incredible impact of their gifts.
“I tell them, ‘the money you give isn’t going to change their lives completely, but it gives people a positive view of their situation’,” Mallberg says. He once helped coordinate a project to provide yoga mats and blocks for the VA’s Recreational Rehab Center. When he visited a class shortly thereafter, he realized that “yoga is a mind game” and that the healing impact the classes had on disabled veterans went far beyond the physical needs that were met.
As with all KW Gives activities, it’s less about the actual gifts and more about opening hearts and changing outlooks. Receiving financial support can be the nudge a person needs to take a step toward employment, recovery, mending a broken relationship or gaining financial stability. “I tell the veterans, ‘Hopefully when you get on your feet, you can pay it forward,’ and they all agree with me,” Mallberg says. “It’s a matter of perspective. "
Know someone who could use some encouragement?
Submit the story of a local individual or family who’s in a tough spot and deserving of a financial gift from KW Cares. Gifts are awarded all year long, not just at the holidays. Submit a story to email@example.com .