One of my personal hero’s is a sister from the East side of Seattle who gathers local members of our far flung Spiritual Fellowship together to volunteer to feed folks a local tent city . I ventured up to Bellevue a couple of years ago and was deeply humbled by the dignity and honesty of the folks we thought we were giving a hand to. The gifts returned were a powerful reminder of how our own struggles binds us to our common humanity.
2010 Realtors Good Neighbor Award Finalist Kim Turley
Kim Turley doesn’t think twice when the occasional shopper in front of her at the grocery line in Yucaipa, Calif. comes up short on cash. She simply steps up and pays the whole bill. “How could you not help out?” she asks, rhetorically. Turley has performed such random acts of kindness for as long as she can remember.
In the mid-1980s, she and her husband, Craig, a nondenominational pastor, became aware of a nearby church’s desire to start a food distribution program for needy families. Without hesitation, they cleared out their two-car garage and converted the space into a food warehouse. This inauspicious efforts in 1986 ensured that struggling adults and children in the area would not have to go to go to sleep hungry. “When people don’t want to see a need, they don’t see it,” she says explaining that her own parents instilled in her at an early age the value of providing help to those less fortunate whenever the opportunity arises.
They ran this informal food bank out of their home for 12 years. As the demand for supplies increased, the couple decided they needed to expand. In 1998 they were able to procure 25 refrigerators and freezers for the organization then known as Joseph’s Storehouse Food Bank and Resource Center and began to rent a 4,000-square-foot warehouse in nearby Redlands. Their army of volunteers, which includes everyone from college students to Girls Scouts, grew as well. They added second-hand clothing to their inventory, and soon they were serving about 60 families a week from four neighboring communities covering a 15-mile radius.
One of 10 Finalists
Turley is one of 10 finalists for the Good Neighbor Awards, a grant program recognizing REALTORS® who make exceptional volunteer contributions to their communities. We’ll bring you the stories of each of these finalists twice a week until the five winners are announced at the end of October.
In 2008, with the economy getting ever shakier, the bank’s needs shot up. And other leaders in the community stepped up to assist in Turley’s efforts. The neighboring city of Redlands donated an unused government building to the non-profit organization, and provided another $100,000 in funding for necessary building upgrades including constructing new bathrooms and outfitting the space to meet food handling codes.
Helping to Make Ends Meet
The 10,000-square-foot facility was renamed The Blessing Center and now serves about 500 families per week in 20 towns in a 30-mile radius. “Not all of the people we work with are jobless or homeless. We are just as happy to be able to help working families who are having trouble making ends meet by cutting their grocery bills down by $60 or $80 a week. They’re able to use the money they save here on gas or to pay other bills they might have gone unpaid,” Turley says.
Turley’s vision of doing more than just proffering food is starting to take shape as well. They offer basic medical services and shelter during the winter months to homeless individuals and families, caring for about 35 people on a typical night. The center is in the process of adding shower facilities and on-site hot meals.
Thanksgiving has become a high-water mark for Turley and her volunteers. She has reached out to her fellow real estate practitioners as chair of the promotions committee of the East Valley Association of REALTORS to solicit turkey donations and raise funds necessary to assemble complete turkey dinner baskets for families. In 2003, the year Turley joined Prudential California Realty, they distributed 250 boxes. By last year, the number had grown to 1,500. “I feel special gratitude because it’s other REALTORS® that are helping me do this,” Turley adds. She oversees numerous fundraising events to make sure the Thanksgiving project is successful including golf tournaments, bowling for dollars and silent auctions.
Those who come to the Blessing Center are always treated with warmth and respect, a hallmark of Turley’s philosophy of giving. “They run through a gauntlet of love when they get here. Everyone is welcomed with a handshake or pat on the back. We also give them the opportunity to help someone else. We say if they are able to pay $2 they’ll help someone else to get a meal. About 90% of people are able to give at least $1 and that makes a huge difference in how they feel,” Turley says. “We want encourage everyone to help others, even those who are in great need themselves.”
Of the 10 Good Neighbor finalists, five winners will receive $10,000 grants for their community projects and will be honored at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans on November 6. The remaining five finalists will receive $2,500 grants for their cause. To learn about the other finalists, go to REALTOR.org/GNA.