The season for giving runs year-round for many in the commercial real estate industry.

There are countless different ways that companies and employees give back to communities throughout the year from fundraisers and drives to in-kind donations for local charities.

This time of year brings with it, added seasonal efforts such as charity toy and food drives for the holiday season.

Commercial real estate companies, associations and foundations are partnering with nonprofits across the Valley to get a better sense of how to utilize its own resources and skill set to serve charities’ needs.

On top of regularly planned drives, fundraisers and in-kind donation projects, these groups aim to provide others with some holiday cheer.

Whether it’s a hot Thanksgiving meal, unwrapping presents on Christmas or simply some friendly conversation, the holidays are a time to give back.

CBRE — one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world — organizes numerous charitable efforts through its Phoenix division each year.

One of the firm’s signature events is Angel Tree, an annual Christmas toy drive for children at the Warner A. Gabel Branch of Boys & Girls Club.

The Arizona Builders Alliance — association of Arizona builders and contractors with 280-plus member companies — coordinates four to five major events each year for charity, says Joshua Marriott, VDC engineer/estimator at McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

ABA’s largest event is its annual Christmas Toy Drive. For the last four years, Marriott has served as the ABA community outreach committee chair overseeing entire drive from outreach to gift-wrapping and delivery of the presents.

For the past three years, Marriott says, the drive generated an average of $100,000 to buy toys, clothes and electronics. The gifts get loaded into semi-trucks and delivered to Sunshine Group Homes, which operates more than 40 group homes across Maricopa County for kids under the supervision of Child Protective Services.

The toy drive is estimated to impact 1,000-plus kids through its efforts.

“It’s a small thing that we can do to give that joy to them over the holidays and make them feel like they are part of a normal family and that they’re loved,” Marriott adds.

In addition to the ABA Toy Drive, he participates in a smaller toy drive for Sunshine Acres with his company along with some of some other contracting companies in the Valley for Sunshine Acres, which is also organized by ABA.

It even throws the kids a Christmas party at Sunshine Acres in Mesa, which is a privately-owned Christian group home housing about 100 children in need.

Santa Claus, the elves and even Mrs. Claus attend to deliver kids their presents, which are hand-selected by employees of the participating companies and wrapped with the intended new owner’s name on the label.

In order to match the right gift for the right kid, Marriott says the participating companies set up a gift tree. Then employees select a child to buy gifts for from a list of 100 names with ages and interests for gifts ideas.

Marriott says it’s really heart warming and a personal way to provide these kids the Christmas they deserve.

Friendly competition for a good cause

While they may be competing for business on weekdays from 9-5 o’clock, for the last 18 years, commercial real estate brokers and other industry professionals have rallied together in support of local charities for an event hosted by Scottsdale Active 20-30 Club, a philanthropic community service organization.

Brokers for Kids
Scottsdale Active 20-30 Club hosts events like Brokers for Kids where participants play games such as Bachi Ball against each other to raise money for Children’s Charities.

Brokers for Kids is a year long competition between teams of eight industry professionals to raise funds for a Valley-based charity before competing head-to-head in an Olympiad.

Kelly Lannan, vice president of development at Del Pueblo Communities, LLC, is the 2017 chairman for the event.

He says the team that sells the most raffle tickets throughout the year leading up to the Olympiad competition wins the Brokers’ Cup, which means the team can choose where a portion of the proceeds are donated.

Then on the last day of the campaign, each team gathers to compete in a series of activities like bocce ball, corn-hole, football toss and basketball. The day ends with the two teams that earned the most points, facing off in dodgeball to determine the winner of the Olympiad Cup.

Lannan says when Brokers for Kids first started, less than ten teams participated in the drive and Olympiad, which was held at Chaparral Park in Scottsdale. Last year, 38 teams registered to participate in the Olympiad at Scottsdale Stadium where the San Francisco Giants play for spring training.

Lannan says countless others participate through buying raffle tickets and sponsorships that all benefit Boys Hope Girls Hope, the event’s charity partner for the last ten years.

He estimates nearly $600,000 was raised since then for the charity to support two group homes that the nonprofit runs and manages.

Growing up around a lot of charity work, Lannan adds, he was really excited when presented the opportunity by the Scottsdale Active 20-30 Club’s board to coordinate the event it hosts each year.

Last year’s efforts raised $350,000 and Lannan has already started on the next drive.

Community project gives back for years to come

Dena Jones, assistant vice president at Fidelity National Title Agency, was introduced to charity work through her mom when she was young.

She attended her first Valley Partnership monthly breakfast about six years ago, which was also the first time she heard about the community project, and has played an active role in the effort ever since.

Valley Partnership
On Nov. 5, more than 300 volunteers helped transform an underutilized parcel of land into a fitness park at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home. (Photo by Taylor Cole)

The community project is selected each year from a list of submissions sent by local nonprofits ranging from renovation projects to building parks and playgrounds.

After selecting a project, Valley Partnership and its members spend the year raising funds through raffle ticket sales and social events to facilitate the delivery of the project.

On the last day of the community project, hundreds of volunteers and Valley Partnership members gather at the construction site and help put the finishing touches on the project.

Dena served as co-chair of the community project committee for the last three years, and says this year she passed the torch to current co-chairs, Aaron Parencia, senior associate at Stantec, and Kim Kleski, senior landscape architect at Olsson Associates.

This year’s community project is the construction of a central park and playground at Sunshine Acres, a group home in Mesa housing about 100 children in need.

To use a sports analogy, Parencia and Kleski serve as the project’s general managers and head coaches. That means managing the budget, coordinating with the contractors and keeping ahead of the project’s construction timeline.

Funds for the project are raised throughout the year ranging from monetary donations by companies to Valley Partnership members tapping into their social networks to see what materials are needed in addition to who can get them.

The project is completed entirely on volunteered time, donations and resources.

Parencia says, “People who sign up for this most of the time are people who enjoy it for more than getting paid for what they do.”

Case and point, look at Jones who still plays an active role in the project’s committee as the board liaison.

“I love the opportunity that Valley Partnership affords us to get to know people that do care about giving back to the community,” she says. “Together we can absolutely do bigger things.”

The project’s heavy construction jobs, like pouring the concrete and installing the needed infrastructure, are completed before the community project’s kick-off event.

On event day, hundreds of volunteers join at the construction site of the project to complete the surface features.

Professionals from entry-level employees to presidents and CEOs work together in groups to complete tasks like landscaping, installing the playground, rolling out the sod and finishing the other amenities.

The construction value of this year’s project totals $200,000 and will function as Sunshine Acres’ central park for its 100-acre campus.

“I feel that we have an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of all the children who find themselves at Sunshine Acres,” says Kleski. “A unique and fun outdoor amenity area will provide space for relaxing, playing, and connecting with their Sunshine Acres family.”