Phoenix real-estate agents JoAnn and Joseph Callaway were touring the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation center when they met a man who changed their lives.
It was about three years ago, and the couple had been invited to visit the Phoenix facility that offers a free drug- and addiction-treatment program funded solely by its thrift store sales.
“We met this man, who told us his incredible story,” JoAnn Callaway told me. “He had lost his job, family and almost his life because of addiction, and told us the Salvation Army’s rehabilitation program had saved his life.”
When they were driving away shaken by the man’s story, JoAnn asked Joseph what they could do to help more people like him.
“We can fill trucks,” Joseph told her, meaning the big trucks that pick up donated clothing and household goods that are then sold at the Salvation Army thrift stores.
The couple were already fans of the Salvation Army and had been recruiting people from the real-estate industry to ring bells for the non-profit during the holidays.
After that tour, the couple known affectionately as “Those Callaways,” invited many of their real-estate friends to their Scottsdale office. Real Estate for Rehabilitation was launched in 2014.
“We work with people every day who are moving and want to donate stuff they don’t need anymore,” JoAnn said. “It’s a perfect fit for the real-estate industry.”
Real-estate and title agents easily recruited by the Callaways promote the program with homebuyers and -sellers, who can call and ask for a free pick-up of the items they donate when they move. And donations are tax deductible.
“The Callaways jumped in with both feet with this incredible idea to enlist the real-estate industry to help people fighting addictions,” said Billy Jensen, CEO of Fidelity National Home Warranty Co., which has been participating in Real Estate for Rehabilitation since its start.
Anyone involved with selling homes in Arizona who knows the Callaways would do a lot to help any cause they back. That’s why I am happy to write this column.
In 2½ years, Real Estate for Rehabilitation has helped increase the Salvation Army’s metro Phoenix thrift sales by 25 percent and funded a doubling of the addiction program as well as a new women’s program in the Valley.
Earlier this year, the Callaways, who were asked to join the national board of the “Army” as they call it, helped launch the program nationally.
Now, hundreds of real-estate brokerages and escrow and mortgage offices are helping fill Salvation Army trucks.
If you sit down to sign papers to buy or sell a house in any of these offices, you’ll see a miniature Salvation Army truck next to a stack of cards with the number to call for a donation pickup. That number is 800-728-7825, by the way.
“Your Realtor wants the shirt off your back!” is the marketing slogan for the campaign. “No not, the shirt on your back. We are talking about that shirt, that blouse, those jeans that no longer fit, and all those shoes you no longer wear but still devote precious closet space to.”
Michelle Schwartz, senior vice president of Old Republic Title Co., said she's been inspired by the Callaways work with the Salvation Army.
“They are so great and care so much about people and the community,” she said. “When they ask if you have time to talk about Real Estate for Rehabilitation, you just want to make time to help as soon as you can.”
Thousands of metro Phoenix real-estate agents also will man red Salvation Army kettles in December because of a program the Callaways started in 2013.
The Callaways' 2012 New York Times best-selling book, "Clients First: The Two Word Miracle," drew the attention of Valley Salvation Army leaders. When the couple met with leaders from the non-profit, they found out the Army wasn’t drawing enough volunteers midweek to ring its bells. That meant they had to hire bell ringers and lost money.
That's when the Callaways first enlisted their friends in the real-estate industry for the Salvation Army, and Real Estate Wednesdays was launched.
During the next month, if you go to the mall or the grocery store during the middle of the week, you could likely run into someone ringing a bell who helped you buy or sell a house.
The real-estate bell-ringing program has also been expanded nationally, too.
“The Callaways are simply amazing,” Erik Hoogstad, administrator of the Salvation Army’s Phoenix Adult Rehabilitation Center, told me. “They realized what a perfect fit the real-estate industry is for our donation program.”
The Salvation Army’s Rehabilitation program lasts six months to a year and provides people fighting drug and alcohol addiction with housing, meals, clothing and counseling
“Every truck we can fill saves a life,” JoAnn told me.
And every full kettle goes toward paying for programs to feed the homeless and help many others in need. So if you have a few extra bucks and pass a bell ringer or decide to clean out your closet, please be inspired by the Callaways.