Hardly a day passes when you might read a news story, see a situation unfold on television or receive an urgent email that makes you think, “Wow, I wish I could do something to help, but I’m far removed from the situation, and I have no idea how.” Unfortunately, with natural disasters, geopolitical situations and other events, it feels like there is no shortage of reasons for concern.
As members of the commercial real estate industry, most of us have access to an extended network of professionals and companies, and we’re in a position to make use of tremendous resources and mobilize people when help is sorely needed. But those efforts are often difficult to organize, despite our best intentions.
Over the past several years it has become easier to help others in need, and I encourage other real estate companies to follow the lead of Lee & Associates, the largest broker-owned commercial real estate services firm active in North America.
I serve as chairperson for CompassionateLEE, a 501C-3 charitable organization our company founded in 2019, following our response to the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area in 2017. Employees working in the Houston office of Lee & Associates sought to establish a mechanism to enable associates living outside the area to provide financial support and/or donate items of need. Now, anytime a major tragedy strikes an area, an email alert is sent to more than 1,400 professionals in the Lee & Associates network, providing details on how they can help.
We again witnessed the immense power of this effort immediately following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and after the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Ian.
In March, CompassionateLEE initiated a program to solicit support for employees and relatives of Klik Solutions, an information technology services company which operates dual headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland, and Ukraine. Many Klik employees who live in Kyiv were either displaced or were recruited to support the volunteer military operation in the ongoing crisis. Clothing and necessary supplies were immediately gathered and local businesses helped distribute donated items to those in need.
This past September, Lee & Associate workers responded to the urgent needs of Hurricane Ian victims by providing financial donations and human capital support to assist with cleanup and rebuild operations.
One particular effort struck close to home. A Lee & Associates Cincinnati employee working remotely in Punta Gorda, Florida, lost the roof to her home and more rain was expected. Jerry Messonnier, principal in the Naples/Ft. Meyers office, rushed to her aid and installed a temporary roof-tarp to protect her furnishings. This scene was replayed countless times throughout the region as Lee & Associates employees helped with the removal of debris from homes and mapped out plans to make residences safe to inhabit again. This work continues throughout the Florida region.
In both situations the response from Lee & Associates professionals was swift, robust and impressive. Word spread quickly about the efforts and almost immediately, offices across the world stepped up to the plate to make generous monetary donations or lend their support to individuals and families impacted by these disasters.
We are reminded about the war in Ukraine on a regular basis, but the hurricane is quickly forgotten for many living outside the Florida area. Many people have felt helpless watching both situations unfold and CompassionateLEE provides an outlet to help and direct resources precisely to those who need immediate assistance.
We encourage other commercial real estate companies, and those servicing our industry, to examine this philanthropic model and look for ways to replicate its processes, programs and successes. During this season of thanks, now is the perfect time to start helping those less fortunate.
Kate Jordan is a principal with Lee & Associates; president-elect of NAIOP Maryland; and president of SIOR MD/DC/NOVA.