At the end of Family Reunion 2018, Keller Williams associates gathered one last time to reflect upon human resilience and KW’s culture of service and compassion. The 19th annual Inspirational Morning program continued its tradition by recognizing individuals who took one small step on a journey that resulted in a miracle. Every story reaffirmed that it is the people of Keller Williams who make the culture great by leaning in during fragile times and soldiering on together.
The Miracle Through Disaster
Beginning with music by Kyle Dillingham, Leslie Vander Gheynst, KWRI’s KPA/Leverage driver, welcomed attendees by highlighting one of the company’s major cultural milestones – Mega Relief.
When Hurricane Harvey battered the Texas coast and surrounding areas, Keller Williams turned the annual agent-training event “Mega Camp” into “Mega Relief”: a massive disaster-relief effort. Agents from all corners of the globe came to Texas and volunteered a total of 60,000 hours.
Ellen Curtis, chief operating officer of KW Worldwide, recounted the instance where she drove a bus full of KW employees to Houston for a day of service.
“It struck me,” she began. “Service makes us all the same. We are wearing the same red shirts, doing the same work, driven by the same goal to be someone’s miracle that day.”
KW Argentina received a special mention for their participation in Mega Relief, even before they were awarded the region. After returning home from the relief event, KW Mexico was faced with devastation of their own – a powerful earthquake. But thanks to the generosity of KW Cares and after witnessing the Mega Relief model, they were able to provide much-needed support to those impacted.
KW Puerto Rico could not attend because they were busy preparing for Hurricane Irma, which had a milder impact than Hurricane Maria, a storm that later ravaged the island. Since Maria, Puerto Rico has grossed 32 agents, bringing the grand total to more than 100 agents and making them the No. 1 real estate company in Puerto Rico!
Bill Soteroff, president of KW Worldwide, summed things up: “It’s the actions you take, the stories you share, the decisions you make. [The] opportunity to lead when disaster strikes. You all show up. You … you are the miracle.”
As Keller Williams grows, more people are drawn to this culture of caring and further integrate it into their personal and professional lives.
Stories of Hope
A throwback to last year’s event, Vander Gheynst revisited the story of Mama Shu. After the tragic loss of her son, Shu decided to turn her grief into action and transformed her community into a vibrant, self-sustaining eco-village. Inspired by her story, the Keller Williams Lakeside market center decided to team up with Shu, and on RED Day – KW’s annual day of service – volunteered at The Avalon Village.
Overwhelmed with support, Shu said, “It takes a village to build a village.”
Going back further to 2015, Vander Gheynst retold the story of McClain Hermes, the daughter of Matt Hermes, a KW agent from the Atlanta – Sugarloaf market center. McClain created an organization called “Shoes for the Souls,” where she collects new and gently used shoes for the homeless. She is also an Olympic swimmer who is legally blind. In December 2017, McClain participated in the World Championships in Mexico City and won several medals, including the gold. She dedicates her wins to her best friend, Grace, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.
The Miracle through Teamwork
The program continued with the story of Jay Seibert: a high school head football coach in the small town of Rockport, Texas. When Hurricane Harvey hit, he drove throughout the town to gather his football team. Together, day by day, they cleaned up the damage at their school. This movement soon grew to 200 students, and their recovery efforts extended to an entire neighborhood of houses.
After the first week of heavy-duty work, Seibert’s players asked to pick up the game again. Deep down, they were all craving normalcy. So, Seibert set up a practice … and he saw attendance balloon. He took it even further and set up an official game. And, although they lost their first matchup, it fully illustrated how a community can get knocked down only to get back up again.
The miracle in this story is how Seibert took responsibility in the wake of a tragedy and infused hope and a sense of purpose in his players and the community at large.
To honor Seibert’s tenacity during trying times, John Davis, president and CEO of Keller Williams, gifted his family a trip to Disneyland, and a $30,000 check for Seibert to support students as they make their way to college.
The Miracle of a Home
Growing up, Warrick Dunn didn’t have a home. His mother was a single parent and didn’t have the wherewithal for a down payment. After she passed, while Dunn was still in high school, he bought a house from her life insurance policy to give a sense of security, comfort and belonging to his siblings. He himself had always wanted a space to call his own, and from this desire arose a home assistance program, “Home for the Holidays,” through which Dunn now helps families with down payments and home furnishings. Despite having a rough ride, he doesn’t let tragedy define him. Dunn has learned to overcome adversity, stay grounded, care for people and never forget his roots.
With the help of several sponsors, Davis presented Dunn with a $40,000 check to cover expenses on a home.
Robert B. Carter and Mary Tennant Awards
The event continued with the presentation of awards. The Robert B. Carter Award was presented to Kathy Neu, executive director of KW Cares, and Randy Neu, area director of KWRI’s South Texas Region. And, Mary Tennant received the inaugural Mary Tennant Award, which recognizes selfless individuals who go above and beyond during times of natural disaster.
The morning closed with a soulful prayer on humility and gratitude by Mo Anderson, the pioneer of KW culture and leader behind Inspirational Morning. At the end of five glorious days of Family Reunion, as associates began to leave, they went home with a beatific smile and the belief that “miracles truly do exist!”