Fourteen professionals connected to the real estate industry in the Portland area had a chance to live out their ballroom dancing competition fantasies — and raise money for Habitat for Humanity.
The second annual Dancing with the Realtors fundraiser was a sequin-studded event that brought the Greater Portland Board of Realtors $6,230 closer to its goal of building a Habitat for Humanity house.
Realtors-turned-dancers experience many of the same trappings as the stars do on the hit TV show — including a pro dance partner, three judges, popular votes, eliminations and sparkly clothes.
They started months ago with Wednesday afternoon group lessons and then pulled names from a hat to determine Realtor-pro dancer pairings.
“For a lot of people, they have no previous dance experience,” said Karen Jones, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker.
“It’s been awesome — especially the camaraderie,” said Cindy Allen, a senior loan officer with NE Moves Mortgage. “I wouldn’t change a thing, actually. Dancing has become something I really enjoy.”
The night of the competition, three pros from The American Ballroom Professionals — Sergei Slussky, Polina Kirillova, and Joel Waterhouse — stayed busy, dancing with a real estate pro in every heat in both tango and cha-cha.
“The spirit of the tango speaks to my personality very well,” said Tim Smith, a sales agent with Maine Real Estate Network. “I’m a really passionate guy.”
Tom Ranello, president elect of the Greater Portland Board of Realtors, just so happens to have also been an auctioneer for 21 years. The auction for the third judge’s seat may have been the most high-drama moment of the evening, as Matthew McDonald of Cumberland Title Services was egged on to a $2,000 bid.
McDonald joined a judges panel that already included Debora Roy, owner of Maine Ballroom Dance, and John Hatcher of Keller Williams Realty.
The judges gave first place in the tango to second-year participant Melissa Richter of Keller Williams Realty. Sue Durst of Portland’s Choice, won the cha-cha.
The third category, audience favorite, was determined by cash donations in jars in the name of each dancer, with all money going toward the Habitat project. Heather Rose of Acadia Lending won the audience favorite category.
The Board of Realtors has partnered with Habitat for Humanity for more than a decade, according to Steve Bolton, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland. “This isn’t just something that happened overnight,” Bolton said. “This has been an ongoing relationship. The vast majority of the land we get now is because of this partnership. And you can’t build a house without land.”
Prior to this year’s event, the board had contributed $75,000 toward a house. Then there was a $10,000 donation from Wells Fargo and more than $6,000 raised during Dancing with the Realtors.
“This allows us to go ahead and get the house started and ask for in-kind donations,” Bolton said. “A lot of Realtors know a lot of people in the construction industry and trade, so they make it easy for us.”
Special guest Steve Thomas, best known for hosting the television show “This Old House” for 14 years, now splits his time between Port Clyde and Portland and is a spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity International.
“Habitat for Humanity is about what you could call work force housing,” Thomas said, explaining that he grew up in a time when a low-income family could buy a starter home, fix it up, sell it, and move up the real estate ladder. Today it can be much more difficult to buy that first home.
“To get a Habitat for Humanity house, you really have to want one,” Thomas said. Candidates must have a clean credit rating and volunteer about 500 hours on other homes. The typical profile is a single mom with two children.
Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough. She can be contacted at: