Home ownership and ballroom dancing may not appear to have a strong connection. But for the Greater Portland Board of Realtors, the biggest annual fundraiser is a dance competition to raise money for Habitat for Humanity.
“Anyone who is part of the Realtor community is familiar with it now,” said Evan Lelansky of Keller Williams Realty at the recent “Season Three” event.
Everyone knows about “Dancing With the Stars.” Swap out the stars for 15 local Realtors and make it a one-night event in support of affordable home ownership, and you’ve got “Dancing With the Realtors.” This year’s event raised $11,200, including nearly $5,000 from the Maine Association of Realtors.
The Greater Portland Board of Realtors has partnered with Habitat for Humanity for more than a decade.
“They started raising money for one house over a year ago,” said Mark Primeau, development associate for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland. “And they have fun doing it. They really enjoy it.”
With the support of WEX Inc., TD Bank, Wells Fargo, Northeast Bank, and Keller Williams Realty, GPBR is now sponsoring eight townhouses on Hummingbird Lane in Freeport for families who are at less than 80 percent of median income and typically wouldn’t quality for a conventional mortgage.
This month, the first of those eight homes was dedicated, forever changing the life of Nyapeni Doulthan, a teacher’s assistant in the Portland Public Schools who has four children of her own.
“It’s amazing to watch her from the day she was first told she was accepted to be a homeowner,” said Primeau, explaining that Doulthan put in 250 hours of “sweat equity” and is so grateful that she plans to continue volunteering with Habitat on homes for others.
“This is a bigger event every year,” said Tom Ranello, GPBR president and Dancing With the Realtors’ fast-talking auctioneer. “The Greater Portland Board of Realtors wants to give back to the community because we have all benefitted from being part of the community. Our hope is to build eight houses.”
“I can’t believe how many people are here,” said Vicki Imman, whose sister-in-law Susan Hight was representing Wells Fargo in the dance competition. “And I can’t wait to watch them dance.”
The year’s bravest Realtors had a couple of months with one of three pros: Fred Dunn, Liz Dunn, or Ben Taylor. They also experience some of the other trappings of the popular television show, from sequins to judges’ comments to popular votes.
Votes come in the form of cash in the Audience Favorite jars, with the money adding to the total for the Habitat project. Tanya Mills, dancing for Acadia Lending Group despite a broken toe, won the Audience Favorite award.
WGME news anchorman Jeff Peterson and dance expert Janet Ross were joined by the highest bidder for the third seat at the judges table, Ed Gardner of Ocean Gate Realty, who shelled out $2,000 for the honor.
The judges selected Mark Richard of Keller Williams as the waltz winner and Tami Goodrich of Foundations Real Estate as the salsa winner. Kee Kee Baily, representing Coldwell Bank Residential Mortgage, took the overall dance prize.
Dancing With the Realtors alumni surprised the audience with an “Austin Powers” group routine, and the band of Realtors “Curb Appeal” kept the audience dancing after the competition.
And don’t think those Realtors in evening gowns can’t get their hands dirty for a good cause.
“The Realtors have days to do the work in groups,” said Rita Yarnold, chair of the Greater Portland Board of Realtors Habitat Committee. “I learned how to lay a hardwood floor.”
Mrs. Maine America 2013 and Realtor Lisa DiBiase, dressed in a deep blue evening gown for the waltz portion of the competition, grinned when talking about the hands-on support Realtors provide the Habitat project. “I was on the roof at a 45-degree angle pitch,” she laughed.
Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough. She can be contacted at: [email protected]