By Tom Eastman
CONWAY — Everyone loves a birthday party, especially when the big 5-0 comes around.
But when owner Dick Badger, 86, discussed plans with Badger Realty’s general manager Brenda Leavitt and staff on how best to celebrate the agency’s half-century mark this coming September, they came up with a better idea.
Rather than host a one-time gala, why not embrace the company’s longstanding philosophy of giving back to the community?
Thus, Badger’s “Giving Back” program was launched, with fundraisers planned throughout the anniversary year and beyond.
“We had talked about a celebration,” Leavitt said in a joint interview with Badger at the firm’s Main Street office in North Conway across from Schouler Park. “It would be fun, but at the end of the day, the whole team sat together to talk about what means the most to us and hands down it is about giving back to those who have contributed to our success.
“It’s a philosophy we have always supported. Now we’ve just formalized it as part of our 50th.”
Badger has long encouraged his staff to serve the community, whether volunteering for non-profit organizations, or serving on town and civic boards.
“I just have always felt that we all owe community service,” said Badger. “It’s an obligation we all have to pay back to our communities, and, of course, to help those who cannot help themselves.”
Leavitt said the “Giving Back” program serves as an umbrella to tie together community efforts that staff members had already undertaken.
She estimates that Badger will donate $25,000 this year, with another $10,000 in terms of the value of services provided.
“We have always done many of these programs, but we have stepped up the pace this year and are branching out to be really creative,” said Leavitt, who came on board as general manager in 1981.
“Mount Washington Valley is one of the most charitable regions in the country, and we are hoping to add to that by involving as many people in the community to join in the effort as possible, whether it be for as little as $5 or more.
“It’s all about people helping people. It’s part of our 50th, but it will be ongoing in future years.”
As Badger and Leavitt noted, they are building on efforts carried on by brokers at the firm. Realtor Bernie Friberg, for example, won the New Hampshire Association of Realtors’ “Good Neighbor” award two years ago for The Caring Wheel, Hands of Hope and the MWV Calendar for Charities. It awards the winner $1,000, and they then get to donate it to the charity of their choice.
Friberg donated hers to the Miranda Leavitt Diabetes Fund, named after Brenda and Rich Leavitt’s daughter, who died from complications from Type 1 diabetes in 2007.
This year, Badger’s real estate closings specialist Wendy Holmes, president of Jen’s Friends, and Realtor Linda Walker of Arts Jubilee, the Christmas Stocking Project, Mountain Top Music and many other organizations were nominated by Badger.
SEVERAL GROUPS TO BENEFIT
Badger’s “Giving Back” effort was launched in January with a $3,000 commitment to the North Conway Community Center’s “Play It Forward” $1.4 million capital campaign for its expansion now underway.
It continued with a “No Empty Bowls” program for local animal shelters. Championed by Christine Newton and Holmes (with the assistance of Karla Badger and Peter and Sharon Pietz), the three-week fundraiser enabled the communities of western Maine and Mount Washington Valley to help the Conway Area Humane Society and Harvest Hills Shelter of Bridgton, Maine. They donated supplies and food at Badger’sNorth Conway office, resulting in two carloads totaling over $2,000 worth of supplies.
Recently, Badger and Leavitt presented a $1,000 check to Jen’s Friends treasurer Kathleen Sweeney and Holmes.
“Not only did we feel blessed go give some financial support to Jen’s Friends, but more importantly, said Leavitt, “both Wendy Holmes and (Realtor) Maureen Garrette) work here at Badger and are board members of the local cancer fighting organization. Wendy coordinates the annual Jen’s Friends Climb Against Cancer at Cranmore, and Maureen coordinates the Jen’s Friends golf tournament every June.”
There also was a $3,000 donation June 4 to the MWV Chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
“We have recently teamed up with Habitat to form a long-term relationship,” said Leavitt. “We are providing funds to help them build their new project in Madison. We also have two interested brokers here at Badger — one of whom will be a board member for Habitat. And we are working with the Habitat board to assist with upcoming fundraisers. Coordinating upcoming events are Diane McGregor, Maureen Garrette, Brendan Battenfelder and myself.”
On Friday, Badger Realty sponsored an ice cream social at Memorial Hospital‘s Merriman House for senior citizens, hosted by Debbie Anderson, Yvonne Andreani and Leavitt, with the assistance of hospital CEO Scott McKinnon and Merriman House’s Sue Ruka. Entertainment was provided by local vocalist Mary Bastoni, with ice cream by Ben & Jerry’s.
And as part of Conway’s 250th anniversary celebration, on July 10, Badger Realty will host a barbecue at the Old-Fashioned Baseball game at North Conway‘s Whitaker Field. Helping with that event are Realtor Ed O’Halloran and his wife Louise, Peter Pietz, Brenda and Rich Leavitt, and Sue and Jeff Smith.
“The first 250 first responders there will receive a free barbecue dinner,” said Leavitt.
Other efforts include a commitment to arts in the valley. As part of Arts Jubilee’s summer season, Badger will once again sponsor fireworks at the traditional pops concert on July 30. Linda Walker — Badger Realty’s first female sales associate in 1980 — is heading the effort. Fellow Realtor Theresa Bernhardt is one of the major contributors to the MWV Arts Association’s annual Art in the Park in Schouler Park Aug. 8.
In addition, Leavitt says that Badger has donated to Mountain Top Music, with Walker and staffer Debbie Anderson serving as “champions.”
Badger also is assisting Fryeburg‘s Mother Seton House, with Leavitt and Realtor David Cianciolo — a Mother Seton House board member — serving as champions of a “Ghost Baby Shower” being planned for August.
Another beneficiary is the Miranda Leavitt Diabetes Fund, close to the hearts of all who work with Leavitt at Badger. The center is located atMemorial Hospital.
“As you can see,” said Leavitt, a resident of Fryeburg, “‘Giving Back’ is such a vital part to our success as Realtors, but more important as human beings. There are so many other organizations, to include non-profits and charities that we support. We plan on hitting every town in the valley to help. For instance, with the help of Debbie Anderson, who lives in Madison, we are working on some upcoming community events. Working in all towns showing our support is important, whether it is in the schools, libraries or community centers.”
For more, visit www.badgerrealty.com or call (603) 356-5757.