Bonita Springs REALTOR® Meighan Harris sprang into action when obscene and hateful messages were spray-painted throughout the town of Riverside Park. The vandalism threatened to overshadow the messages of racial justice and equality at the forefront of the otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter protests that occurred in Bonita Springs just days before.
NAR’s Community Rebuilding Grant Helps Restore a Beloved Community Gathering Space
Harris, who is the CEO of the Bonita Springs-Estero REALTORS® Association, used the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2020 Community Rebuilding Grant to aid in the recovery. Through this grant, REALTOR® associations are eligible to apply for up to $3,000 to help their communities rebuild after vandalism during recent racial injustice demonstrations.
The bandshell at Riverside Park plays an important role in many of Bonita Springs’ community events. “That’s where our church meets, where our families come together…it was an unfortunate and misguided event,” Bonita Springs Councilman Jesse Purdon told News-Press. It was this sentiment that drove Harris to action. She told REALTOR® Magazine, “To see an area that is so beloved by so many vandalized was heartbreaking. When we found out about the grant money through NAR, we saw it as an opportunity for our REALTORS® to be a part of the solution.”
With the help of local lawmakers and a professional crew, Harris and the Bonita Springs-Estero REALTORS® association were able to clean the park up in time for the town’s socially distant Fourth of July celebration.
Communities Across the Nation Rebuild with NAR’s Community Rebuilding Grant
Recognizing that community celebrations, like Bonita Springs’ Fourth of July celebration, are essential during such uncertain times to the strength of towns across the nation, is what led to the creation of the 2020 Community Rebuilding Grant. In the article Creating Home, Mending Communities, NAR notes, “Our homes aren’t just homes – they are offices, gyms and so much more, and our communities have been our life line during these challenging times.”
Harris isn’t alone in her efforts to rebuild public spaces that have been impacted by demonstrations for racial injustice. In Fredericksburg, Virginia the Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS® used the grant to sponsor a communitywide event entitled “Love Scrub.” During this event, the group planned to clean up streets and restore a vandalized police memorial. This NAR supported event was so successful amongst community members, that the group hosted a second clean up event to continue sprucing up the city.
In Freeport, Illinois representatives from the REALTOR® Association of Northwestern Illinois (RANWIL) applied for and received assistance from the Community Rebuilding Grant to fix broken windows and other damage that resulted from protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd. Neeley Erickson, from the Illinois REALTORS® Association, said the cleanup was “about building a stronger community.” Last year the group helped raise money for local food banks. Erikson says the goal is to “find the need and help.”
REALTORS® know that homeowners want to live in strong, healthy communities, and initiatives like NAR’s Community Rebuilding Grant demonstrate their commitment to creating and supporting those efforts.