A recent Coats for Kids winter clothing drive imagined and pulled off by three real estate agents at Coldwell Banker OnTrack Realty in Red Deer, AB, was a big success. It’s also a bit of a how-to guide for others looking to give back to and connect with their communities. Spoiler alert: it’s teamwork.
Here are the big, impressive numbers from Coldwell Banker OnTrack Realty’s recent Coats for Kids clothing drive in Red Deer, AB:
41: pairs of gloves
33: snow pants
Here’s a small, equally impressive number:
3: the number of real estate agents who made it all happen
By name, those three Coldwell Banker OnTrack agents are Jenna Smith, Ken Devoe, and Chris Forsyth. They’re united in crediting their cohesion as a small but mighty group, along with the generosity of Red Deer residents, as the reasons for the success of the campaign.
“We work closely together in this brokerage, we help each other, we’re always bouncing business ideas off each other, and we’re always there for each other,” said Smith, who is Associate Broker and office manager.
Forsyth agreed: “We’ve always gotten together and chatted about work things and life stuff, and we try to help each other out in our businesses. It’s grown into a real team atmosphere.”
Said Devoe: “There’s no way I could have done this by myself. Absolutely no way. We just work well together. We’re all individual agents in our office, but we all work well together. And we have the same sense of humour, which is sometimes good!”
The campaign started with a question.
“We were talking about how me might give back,” Smith recalled. “How can we give back to the community, the three of us? It’s been a good year, and we wanted to find a way to give back.”
Smith came across Coats for Kids, which is run by the Red Deer Christmas Bureau, in an internet search. The idea of helping local children layer up for the winter struck a chord.
“Our winters are long,” said Devoe, himself a mountain-climbing, all-seasons fan of the outdoors. “Having clothes to be outside just a little more, even 15 minutes more a day, is good for everyone.”
But good winter clothing is not cheap. Not everyone has the means.
“And it can be hard to ask for help,” said Smith. “It can be hard on your pride.”
The plan took shape quickly. A call to action went out to clients and followers via Facebook and other social media.
They had 1,500 door hangers printed and dropped them off in a few Red Deer subdivisions in mid-September.
“It took us a few hours over three days, walking the neighbourhoods, putting them on the doors,” said Smith.
“It was nice weather. People were outside. So, we had a chance to talk to them and explain what we were doing and why we were there.”
The prep work was done. Social media posts were posted, door hangers hung, phone calls and texts made, people pitched—all that was left to do was wait until pickup day, September 25, to see if the community was as committed to the campaign as the organizers.
Pickup day nerves
In Smith’s SUV, the trio cruised the neighbourhoods looking for bags of clothing left on the front steps of houses they had canvassed. At first, they didn’t see as many bags as they hoped for.
“The first little bit was slow, so, you’re, like, oh, no, are we going to get more?” Smith said. “We were a bit nervous doing something new. You don’t know if it’s going to take off or what’s going to happen.”
Things started to take off, especially when the trio rolled into the Deer Park subdivision. Once the SUV was loaded with donations— “At one point we thought we were going to bury Chris in the back seat,” Smith joked—back it went to Devoe’s newly cleaned garage. And again. And then again.
“We did one subdivision, then went to another and we were probably a fifth of the way through that subdivision when we all just looked at each other and said, wow, this is getting bigger,” said Devoe.
“That was pretty cool.”
Forsyth said he was “taken aback by how many people actually reached out and kept reaching out even after we did our pickup.”
Red Deer Christmas Bureau
The haul was then taken to the new location of the Red Deer Christmas Bureau, a 15,000-square foot bay operated by volunteers that features a library to enhance the literacy of its patrons, and a toy room taking shape for children at Christmas holiday time.
“The parents can come in, they get so many points, and they can pick gifts for their children,” said Smith. “I think we’re going to try to work with the Christmas Bureau again on their next book drive.”
After the drop-off, the team was faced with a final question: how best to say thank you to the generous Red Deer residents who donated the winter wear?
They went old school—handwritten thank you notes. Each residence that donated clothing items got a thank you note in old-fashioned ink from Jenna, Ken and Chris.
“I was worried that people might throw the envelope away because we didn’t know their names, we just addressed it to the homeowner,” Smith said. “So, I got little Coats for Kids stickers made and put them on the front so they would hopefully see that and connect it all.”
Next steps, lessons learned
The plan is to reprise and enlarge Coldwell Banker OnTrack Realty’s Coats for Kids effort next year. There is certainly room to grow. This year’s drive covered only a fraction of Red Deer’s neighbourhoods.
“I hope next year other realtors in our office pick a neighbourhood as well, too, and go out and do that same thing,” said Forsyth.
For others who are considering moving an idea out of the “wouldn‘t–it–be–nice–if”column into the “look-at-what-we-did“ column, the OnTrack Realty trio shared some advice.
It’s the expected refrain of teamwork.
Smith: “Find a partner. Find somebody you get along with and just partner up with them. A lot of people think real estate is cutthroat, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Our office isn‘t like that. Find each other and work together.”
Forsyth: “Jump in together. Don’t overthink it. Put a plan together and do it.”
Devoe: “I think we started something. We didn’t expect it to be this big. I’m really proud of what we did.”
By some of the signs left on the doorsteps for the Coldwell Banker OnTrack Realty trio to see, Red Deer is proud of what they did, too.