REALTOR® siblings organized their own supply drive for Texas flood victims

Volunteers pause during the supply drive organized by REALTORS® Joyce Zelazik and Frank Klimala.

Homer Glen REALTOR® Joyce Zelazik admits she’s still in awe of the community response to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts she helped organize a few weeks ago.

“It was just a beautiful community effort,” says Zelazik, who works for Coldwell Banker The Real Estate Group in Homer Glen.

After eight days of work, Zelazik and her brother, REALTOR® and trucking company owner Frank Klimala, had garnered enough support to fill a 53-foot long semi-trailer with bottled water, Gatorade, non-perishable food, bleach, cleaning supplies, diapers, toilet paper, towels, light blankets, pet food and toiletries.

“At the beginning, we posted on our Facebook page that we wanted to collect certain kinds of items to help the flood victims around Houston,” said Zelazik. “We didn’t feel like we needed any more volunteers (than the family, friends and colleagues who’d already committed to help). But during the final weekend, the people came and they came and they came. Some stayed all day long and volunteered to watch the trailer so nothing would happen to the contents. Some even came back to help the next day. It was very organic.”

How they made it happen

By far, organizing the effort was the most time-consuming, difficult and necessary part of the process, she says. Zelazik needed to determine what items were needed, find a safe place to collect them, a secure place to keep them and a reliable person or organization to receive them in Texas.

Klimala arranged for a trailer to be parked at the Homer Glen collection site and paid a driver to transport the donated items to Texas.

Through a mutual friend, Zelazik found a reliable contact in a Willis, Texas pastor who used to live in the Joliet area. The pastor found a warehouse to store the donations. Later, church volunteers drove smaller trucks to the warehouse and distributed the necessities to flood victims in smaller nearby towns where aid workers had not been yet.

Help comes from many directions

(l to r) REALTOR® Ed Prodehl, Sandy Prodehl, REALTOR® Joyce Zelazik and REALTOR®Frank Klimala during a break in the Homer Glen supply drive for Hurricane Irma victims.

Homer Glen area businesses, including Coldwell Banker, provided donations and support. A Big R store guided local volunteers toward needed items that could be purchased in the store. One donor gave 75 five-gallon buckets full of cleaning supplies one day, then came back the next day with 90 more.

A view inside the back of the Homer Glen truck shows numerous buckets filled with cleaning supplies and boxes of other donated items.

One volunteer, who worked for a company that manufactured backpacks, helped fill numerous backpacks with school supplies for children who’d be starting the school year under duress. Another woman drove from Wisconsin to pitch in after reading about the project on Facebook.

Real estate professionals from around the area joined in to help. Zelazik noted that she had nieces and nephews as young as six years old volunteer, and that a wide variety of people participated. Even after the project was complete, she was receiving text messages asking when the next one like it will begin.

Seeing so many different people come together to help flood victims far away renewed her faith in her fellow man. “I had the time of my life that weekend. It was hard work. It was hot, and it was sweaty. But it was good. I have never seen such a beautiful, spirited community effort.”


Illinois REALTORS® support Legacy Awards in Springfield

Dennis Bringuet, president of Ace Sign, accepted a Legacy Award from the Springfield Business Journal earlier this week at the Illinois REALTORS® building in Springfield. Brinquet accepted the award with three generations of his family. The business started in 1940.

Illinois REALTORS® sponsored this year’s Legacy Awards, presented by the Springfield Business Journal. The awards honor local businesses and individual business leaders for their commitment to the Springfield community and historic preservation.

Congratulations to all recipients including Ace Sign Co. in the category of 51-100 years in business. Ace created the signage for the Illinois REALTORS® building in 2007 and again in 2016 for the historic name change.

Other award winners included:

Fletcher Farrar, editor of the Springfield Business Journal, thanked Illinois REALTORS® for hosting the event. He shared the importance of a thriving local business community and how the leaders at the event leaving a legacy for future generations through their involvement in historic preservation and commitment to keeping their businesses in Springfield.

Fletcher Farrar, editor of the Springfield Business Journal, thanks Illinois REALTORS® for hosting the event.

The Vachel Lindsay Association receives the 2017 Historic Preservation Fund of the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln grant of $7,500. The home is located across the street from the Illinois REALTORS headquarters and just south of the Governor’s Mansion. The grant will fund repainting of the exterior of the home as part of the Illinois Bicentennial celebrations.


VIDEO – Illinois REALTORS® Relief Foundation and the 2015 Coal City tornado

When their home was severely damaged by the 2015 Coal City tornado, Jason and Devan Gagliardo discovered the Illinois REALTORS® Relief Foundation was waiting to help them, and families like them.

Established in 2015, the Illinois REALTORS® Relief Foundation can help those living in communities that have been affected by natural disasters.To learn more about IRRF and its mission, click here.


REALTORS® provide $37K to Illinois flood and tornado victims through relief funds

Visit for more information about flood relief. (Bigstock Photos)

The Illinois REALTORS® Relief Fund (IRRF) distributed $17,382.21 to 35 July flood victims and $15,160 to 31 February tornado victims, while the REALTOR® Relief Fund gave $5,294.47 to seven tornado victims, says Illinois REALTORS® Director of Operations Cathy Madaus.

IRRF is Illinois REALTORS® charitable arm which focuses on helping those affected by disasters, and has provided thousands of dollars in assistance over the past few years. The REALTOR® Relief Fund is a charitable arm of the National Association of REALTORS®.

Storms and heavy rains hit northern Illinois in early July, causing the state to declare disaster areas in Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. The Illinois REALTORS® Relief Fund (IRRF) started accepting applications for assistance from flood victims who are full-time Illinois residents and U.S. citizens who meet the criteria of the program. Maximum assistance is $500 per household, and money must be used for documented housing, subsistence and other needs such as assistance with an insurance deductible.

In late February and early March, tornadoes caused severe damage near Ottawa and Peoria. News reports indicated that two men were killed by a falling tree in Ottawa, and another was killed in the southern Illinois town of Crossville, in White County, near the Indiana border. EF-3 tornadoes caused severe damage in the communities of Naplate (near Ottawa) and Washburn (near Peoria).

Cathy Madaus

Immediately following the tornadoes, several local associations also offered assistance to victims by donating gift cards for displaced victims or by making donations to the IRRF.

Although the application period is closed for the tornado victims, IRRF applications may still be submitted by flood victims through Oct. 1. If you know someone who needs assistance, please share the information. RRF applications are available, too.

To learn more about IRRF and its mission, go here.

To donate to the IRRF, go here.


Solar eclipse Monday captures attention in Southern Illinois

First row (l to r): Charay Palmer, Mike McDonald, Bonnie Flynn, Ron Flynn. Second row: Connie Stellhorn, Paul Coons, Shawn Stanton. Third row (far back): Dan Hassard. (Christi Vineyard Photo)

Volunteers representing the Egyptian Board of REALTORS® in southern Illinois got a front row seat for the 2017 solar eclipse when they volunteered to help with parking and water distribution at Bald Knob Mountain, south of Carbondale along the path of totality.

At 1,034 feet above sea level, the mountain provided eclipse viewers a 360-degree unobstructed view of the event. The nonprofit organization, the Bald Knob Cross of Peace, rented of eclipse viewing space at the top of the mountain to eclipse enthusiasts.

“More than 730 people watched the eclipse at the Bald Knob Cross of Peace,” said Christi Vineyard, administrative assistant for the Egyptian Board of REALTORS®. “We saw license plates from California, Texas, New York, Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin. There was even a group from Australia. There were probably others, that is just what I witnessed while directing traffic early that morning for a couple of hours.”

EBOR also donated nearly 6,000 eclipse glasses to 13 area schools so that students could watch and learn about solar eclipses: County of Union School District No. 43; Anna Jonesboro CHSD 81 School District; Dongola School District 66; Shawnee Community Unit School District; Buncombe Grade School, Cypress School District 64; Goreville Community Union District 1; New Simpson Hill School District 32; Vienna School District 55; Carbondale Elementary School District 95; Giant City Community Consolidated School District; Elverado Community School District 196; and Desoto Consolidated School District. Three counties closed schools Monday for the eclipse: Johnson, Union and Jackson.

“Not only did we want to help with Bald Knob Cross of Peace’s (fundraising) efforts, we also wanted to provide area schools the tools allowing students to safely view this unforgettable event,” Egyptian Board of REALTORS® Association Executive, Charay Palmer said. “We want to show members of the community that we are not just interested in buying and selling real estate. We care about what’s going on in our communities.”

Volunteers included: Cindy Bevis, Teresa Camarato, Paul Coons, Bonnie Flynn, Ron Flynn, Dan Hassard, Marianne James, Mike McDonald, Shawn Stanton, Connie Stellhorn, Phil Chiles of Springfield, Peggy Chiles of Springfield, Palmer and Vineyard. Emma Davis of Farmers Bank, one of the EBOR affiliates, donated bottled water on behalf of the bank.

“I  thought the eclipse was awesome,” said Phil Chiles. “Day became night. What was amazing was how light it still was when only a small segment of the sun was visible.”

Impromptu plans work out

About 65 miles east, at the home of Egyptian REALTOR® Ayn Bartok, just outside of Eldorado, Illinois REALTORS® President-elect Matt Difanis was part of a group that enjoyed a great experience, too.

Ayn Bartok and Matt Difanis

“The whole trip was a last-minute thing. I had never seen anything like it,” said Difanis, president-elect, Illinois REALTORS®. “I was amazed by how well I could see it with no telescope and just solar glasses. I have heard many people from Central and Northern Illinois comment that it was not as impressive as they had hoped. My observation was that watching it get to 75 percent and then 90 percent – and even beyond – was still nowhere near as dramatic as that one to two minutes where the sun was 100 percent blocked. If you watched from anywhere outside the path of totality, it was a completely different – and much less dramatic – experience.”

Difanis said every member of his group thought the eclipse exceeded their expectations. In addition to the privacy of Bartok’s property, the cloudless skies made the experience even better.

“In addition to NOT being overrun with tourists in that spot, that location – quite a bit east of Carbondale – had no clouds obscuring the sun during the eclipse. We could see the sun during every second, whereas the tens of thousands of people gathered in Carbondale had clouds obscuring most of the action. . . . My 12-year-old son declared it one of the most amazing things he’s ever seen.”

Check out the photo gallery below, with contributions from Difanis, Vineyard and Illinois REALTORS® past president Phil Chiles.