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extend a Hand

Life can change in an instant. From the devastating Maui wildfires in August to a deadly tornado in Tennessee in December to unforeseen illnesses and life events, eXp Realty’s agents and staff are always eager to step in and help each other and their communities. 

“At the core of eXp lies a profound dedication to service, ingrained in our very DNA,” said Carolyn Merchant, Chief Marketing Officer of eXp Realty and a Trustee member of eXtend a Hand. “We are fully committed to creating a positive influence within the communities we serve. Witnessing the remarkable impact we can achieve when we unite our efforts to assist those in need is truly awe-inspiring.”

Hurricane Harvey Initiated the Start of eXtend a Hand 

Annie Pellegrini leads the eXtend a Hand Charity, which is in its infancy after gaining its 501(c)(3) status in 2021, previously functioning for years as a grassroots organization formed as a result of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. She is a one-person department, with a Herculean task of holding fundraisers, managing donations, and coordinating communication among eXp’s 89,000+ agents and several thousand staff members. As an alumna of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, she is up for the challenge.

Annie Pellegrini leads eXp’s eXtend a Hand Charity.

“It’s really beautiful. I love helping people,” she said. “Leading eXp’s charity and giving back efforts are deeply fulfilling. When our agents or employees are struggling through a difficult time, letting them know they are not alone and that our eXp family is here to help, is the heart of our mission.”

eXtend a Hand’s mission is to provide financial assistance to eXp Realty agents, staff and their immediate families who are currently experiencing hardship as a result of catastrophic events such as natural disasters or life-threatening illnesses that prevent them from working and supporting their families.

This year, 142 grants have been given to eXp Realty agents and staff who have been affected by a life-altering event. Since 2018, over 515 grants have been given to eXp agents and staff in need. Extend a Hand raises money through:

  • Donations
  • Events (Regional Rallies, 5K Fund Run & Walk, booths at events)
  • Purchases of I Heart eXp merchandise from the eXp Brand Store.
  • Coming soon: Agent Giving Program, in which agents can donate a portion of their commissions.

Agents Alert eXtend a Hand When Needs Arise

Annie says eXp Realty agents and staff don’t hesitate to alert her when a colleague might be affected by a natural disaster. Likewise, she works with emergency relief teams in each state to get an accounting of people who could be impacted. 

“I live in California, so I don’t always know what is happening across the country, but there was a tornado in Tennessee and two agents were displaced from their homes. A fellow agent contacted me on their behalf and we got to work. It’s important to get funds into their account as soon as possible so they have money to get them through the crisis.”

A big part of Annie’s role is to facilitate bringing together agents who desire to give, to agents who need support.

  • When an intense EF-3 tornado swept through Clarksville, Tennessee, on December 9, three people were killed and hundreds of people lost their homes, including two eXp agents. Several eXp agents stepped in to help, including Laine Bowling, who is located a couple of hours away from the tornado’s path and offered her Airbnb rental to one agent.
  • In British Columbia, Canada, an eXp agent contacted Annie, asking how he could help any colleagues in the BC area. Annie connected him with a BC agent and her family who lost their home in the wildfires.

eXp Agents Give Back in a Multitude of Ways

eXp Realty agents and staff have consistently pointed to collaboration as one of its most important core values – both in terms of supporting each other professionally and personally. 

Additionally, eXp commits one day a year for agents and staff to give back through the “I Heart eXp Community Day,” each Oct. 6, a significant day because it’s when eXp launched in 2009.

The sale of “I Heart eXp” T-shirts helps fund the eXtend a Hand Charity.

During Community Day, eXp agents organize fundraising events for charities or causes of their choice and buy “I Heart eXp” T-shirts during the events, whose proceeds go directly to eXtend a Hand’s fund. Agents and staff can also simply make monetary donations to the fund.

Below are just a few of the ways eXp Realty agents and staff are supporting each other and their communities. 

20 Families Supported During Maui Wildfires

The Maui wildfires in August 2023 ravaged a close-knit community, affecting thousands of lives, including 20 eXp Realty agents and staff who were displaced. California eXp agent Jon Pugh, who travels to Maui at least once a year and whose connections to Hawaii go back to his childhood, was distraught.

“When I saw the devastation, I was heartbroken. I felt powerless. Then I learned two agents in my group were affected first-hand, so I had to do something.”

Jon Pugh received the Humanitarian Award at EXPCON 2023.

Jon, who has worked on numerous humanitarian projects over the years – including bringing clean water to Africa (“Watching kids drink clean water is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had”) and Feeding America –  jumped into action. He organized a daylong mastermind event, gathering some of the top producers and experts in his network to hold a free live-streamed learning session. Presenters, who normally charge thousands for their services, donated their time to the cause and as a result, raised $14,000.

For this selfless act, Jon was named Humanitarian of the Year at eXp Realty.

“It was something so close to my heart and I was so honored to receive the Humanitarian of the Year,” said Jon. “We can go anywhere on vacation, but we go to Maui every year – not for the water or beach, but the culture. It’s the entire Hawaiian experience – the people, the food, the culture that keeps bringing me back to Hawaii.”

Additionally, eXtend a Hand has set up a Maui relief fund page where extensive information about relief efforts, services and donations can be made.

eXp’s Adopt a Family Campaign Targets Holiday Season 

With the holiday season upon us, the eXtend a Hand program has initiated an “Adopt a Family” program for those families facing hardships. So far, 16 families have been “adopted” by several internal eXp departments, staff and agents who are in direct contact with those recipients – including two families in Maui. 

Hardships include an agent who lost their spouse in a car accident, and was left with three children. Another is a single mom who was diagnosed with cancer and has two children. Families are provided with wrapped gifts for their families, including meals. 

All gifts are wrapped and delivered to the families.

Annie says the response from the eXp community has been overwhelming. “The charity has received an amazing outpouring of support from eXp agents and staff willing to donate and help our eXp families in need this Christmas.”

The Adopt a Family initiative was started in 2022, when an eXp agent (“Eileen”), was battling cancer and faced overwhelming medical bills. She was unsure if she could provide a Christmas for her four children. But thanks to the generosity of eXp’s Legal Operations and Agent Compliance departments, Eileen’s family experienced the magic of the season with plenty of wrapped gifts under the tree and a full Christmas dinner.

Calgary Broker Knits ‘Fiddle Muffs’ for Alzheimer Patients

Jane Moore Floer, a managing broker in Calgary, Alberta, knits “fiddle muffs”  for those with Alzheimer’s.  They are cylindrical knitted tubes, decorated on the inside and out with items that keep hands busy with beads, ribbons, trinkets, and shapes. These creations help prevent patients from pulling their hair, skin and clothes – side effects of the disease.

She donates them to retirement homes and the Alzheimer’s Society and has made almost 200 to date.

“They have been so well received. I have been told they work like magic and keep hands active. I was inspired by a group of community knitters from the Maritimes that made them. I thought, “I can do that’ and just started knitting them.”

Food Bank Gets Donations As a Result of Lowered Property Taxes

Another Canada agent, Jason Anson of the beautiful Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island,  helped homeowners in his small community successfully appeal their property taxes in 2023. His only caveat for his services is that they donate to the local food bank. As a result, the local food bank raised $6,750 for those in need. 

“This goodwill work in my community led to the readers of our local newspaper voting me the #1 Real Estate Agent/Team in the Cowichan Valley Citizen,’’ Jason said.

eXp Realty agent Jason Anson (far right) delivers a check for $6,750 to the local Cowichan Valley food bank.

Paula Burrows Is Deeply Involved in Her Washington State Community

eXp Realty agent Paula Burrows is an active volunteer and supporter of nonprofits in her rural community of Toledo, Washington. 

  • As a board member of the Toledo Community Foundation, she helped raise over $60,000 in its bi-annual fundraiser “Down Home Shindig” to help kids in need in the Toledo School District.
  • As a board member of Hope Alliance, a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, she helped to organize several events in 2023 – “Walk a Mile,” a golf tournament and bingo night – to raise funds for the organization.
  • In 2023, she partnered with Bonanza BBQ to sponsor a Young Life barbecue and silent auction event which raised $6,000 to send kids to Young Life camp.
  • She sponsored scholarships for graduating seniors in her parents’ memory. 
  • She sponsored a baseball team. 
  • She created a video series called Community Connections, which features local businesses and nonprofits in her communities.

“I feel that by giving back and bringing public awareness, we help create healthy communities. One small act of kindness can make a positive impact,” said Paula. 

eXp agent Paula Burrows (front row, second from right) with the Toledo Community Foundation Board during their “Down Home Shindig” event.

Paula Burrows (far left) with other volunteers during the Young Life barbecue and silent auction event.

Additionally, she and fellow eXp agent Anny Johnson of Seattle helped organize eXp Community Service Day for Washington state, in which six counties pledged a different cause to support.

Austin’s Elizabeth Riley “Adopts 50 Foster Children” During Holidays

eXp Realty agent Elizabeth Riley of Austin, Texas, knows a thing or two about foster children as she was just a young girl when her mother and step-father fostered 180 children over a 20-year period. 

That experience has led her and her friends to “adopt” 50 foster children during the holiday season through the Partnerships for Children program. As a result, 6,500 foster children in central Texas will be receiving gifts. Watch Elizabeth and her son drop off more gifts to the cause. 

Elizabeth’s philanthropic efforts don’t stop there. She took part in a “Dancing With the Stars” event, which raised $2.6 million to benefit the Center for Child Protection, a nonprofit serving child abuse victims in Travis County, Texas.

Ontario’s Platinum Properties Give Back In Many Ways

Courtney Levert, the team lead of Platinum Properties in Sarnia, Ontario, says giving back to the community is part of her “team’s principles.”

“We are known in our city for constantly donating,” she said.

eXp Realty Canada agent Courtney Levert shows off a check for $3,000 as part of her giving.

Platinum Properties has made $20,000 in donations this year and the giving comes in many forms across the team. Here are a few examples:

  • Courtney donates $100 per transaction to the Sarnia Humane Society. She has raised just over $6,400 for feral cats of Petrolia, Ontario through the International Women’s Day event, which features a major lunch event with speakers. 
  • Chynna and Reck DaSilva donate a percentage of their commission to the Canadian Mental Health Association. They also held a fundraiser, which featured games, music, bouncy castles and a barbecue, raising $6,000 so far this year.
  • Jaime Wyville donates to hospice, totaling $4,000 this year. 

eXp Realty Canada agent Jaime Wyville (right) with a check for $2,000 to St. Joseph’s Hospice.

Utah’s James Roth Giving Gifts, Raising Funds for 10 Years

Through the power of his social media sphere of influence, eXp Luxury agent James Roth has been running a Secret Santa operation out of his home in Salt Lake City for 10 years. He’s done the marketing, collecting, purchasing, and distribution of gifts and added much of the financial need from his own personal resources.   

James says this year will probably be the biggest yet, in which seven families and 25 people will be supported with gifts and money, of which $10,000 has been raised.

James Roth (in green suit) supervises the delivery of food and gifts.

James has been with eXp since 2020, an ICON agent for all three years and a top 500 agent in Utah. Giving back to the community is something he values.

“It’s awesome how people come together to help out. I put it out on social media and get an overwhelming response. We have people who we have helped over the years who now are donating to the cause and paying it forward. We are changing the lives of people – at least for Christmas time.” 

James describes one family – a single mom with three kids – whose car breaks down constantly. Despite working several part-time jobs, she could never get ahead of the bills and constant car issues. James posted her need on his Facebook page and a car repair shop said they would repair it, gratis. After replacing just about every part – new tires, brakes, alignment, battery and assorted other needs, the shop fixed it for $2,500. James then filled the car with gifts and gift cards.

In addition to gifts and money donations, James spends $500-600 for food and supplies at Costco for each family. 

Outside of his Secret Santa operation, he also runs a foundation for police officers, raising money for those in the police community who have been injured on the job.

When James was asked about his deep desire to give, he said “It probably started with being adopted. Four of my siblings are all adopted. We grew up with not much money, but one thing my parents could give is love and this is one way to give love.”

Renee and Jeffrey Funk Hold an Annual “Surprise a Server” Event

On the lighter side, Orlando’s Renee & Jeffrey Funk, Team Leaders of The Funk Collection Brokered by eXp Realty, know that waiters and waitresses work hard for their money, especially after the effects of Covid, which have decimated their incomes and livelihood. 

Renee (back row, sixth from right) and Jeff Funk (next to Renee) and their team, plus the servers from First Watch restaurant in Windermere, Florida.

To show their appreciation, this dynamic, fun-loving couple and the Funk team had the idea in 2020 to show support for the server community by doing a “Surprise a Server” event. Each holiday season, their growing Funk Collection team pools their money in unmarked, sealed envelopes and then chooses a restaurant. At the end of the meal, the unsuspecting servers receive a stack of envelopes that holds a significant surprise gratuity. (See the video.)

Renee said these gifts come at powerful moments when the servers, upon understanding the magnitude of the cash gifts, have shared their heartbreaking stories and hardships of evictions, car breakdowns, or parents who cannot fund a Christmas gift.

“The whole server industry needs a hand up and a lift to be represented at a high level,” said Renee. “We love coming together with the power of giving back and making magical moments for those who make dining experiences throughout the Orlando area memorable. It’s a reminder – especially during the holiday season, to give your servers an extra boost,” said Renee.


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