The Woodstock-Ingersoll Tillsonburg & Area Association of REALTORS®’ (WITAAR) REALTORS® Care Committee is the organizing body for the annual REALTORS® Care Food Drive. The committee has been working together for over a decade to collect and donate food for their local food banks. For the REALTORS® Care Committee, this is a community effort, the success of which is due to the unconditional support of their REALTOR® members, family and neighbours.
The annual REALTORS® Care Food Drive finished its 11th year this May where over 120 volunteers helped donate 26,000 pounds of food – about the equivalent of a school bus. It’s their largest donation total in the past few years but they are not surprised at the dedication and passion shown by their community of Oxford County.
This year’s success pushed the Food Drive’s total to 218,500 pounds of food for those who need it most.
This is the WITAAR REALTORS® Care Committee’s Real Heart story.
Q: Can you tell us about the WITAAR REALTORS® Care Committee and how it came together?
A: We are a committee formed by our real estate board, the Woodstock-Ingersoll & District Real Estate (WIDERB), newly amalgamated to the Woodstock-Ingersoll Tillsonburg & Area Association of REALTORS® (WITAAR). WITAAR is a Board of REALTORS® representing members across the heart of Oxford County in southwestern Ontario. The REALTORS® Care Committee (RCC) is a subdivision of the Board focused on fundraising, donations, and volunteer initiatives for our community. We help launch and manage a variety of programs, but the annual REALTORS® Care Food Drive is our cornerstone. Its success is a result of the unconditional support we receive from our members and their passion for giving back.
Q: How did the first REALTORS® Care Food Drive start?
A: The first Food Drive began 11 years ago in May when the Board at the time wanted to help better support local organizations, one of them being the Salvation Army of Woodstock & Ingersoll.
The Salvation Army is an important organization for the community here in Oxford County. They are a volunteer-run initiative providing canned and boxed food for those in need. They also have an emergency walk-in, program which provides clothes, toiletries, and other essential items.
When the REALTORS® Care Committee planned the first REALTORS® Care Food Drive, they worked closely with the Salvation Army to identify what items were needed. Lists were put together and were then promoted by association members in their communities.
The first Food Drive was an immediate success. The entire community got involved, donating everything from canned soup to dish soap. Since then, it’s grown every year with more and more members leveraging their networks. In a short time, we started seeing donations in the tens of thousands of pounds.
Q: Since the REALTORS® Care Food Drive started, do you have an idea of how much food has been donated?
A: To date, we’ve donated 218,500 pounds worth of food. It sounds surreal just saying it.
This year was our 11th annual Food Drive and we had over 120 volunteers sign up to participate, including REALTORS®, their families, neighbours, and even young children. After having to take time off because of the pandemic, we had an outpouring of support this year, in particular. Thanks to the donations from our community members, we were able to give over 26,000 pounds of food to the Salvation Army of Woodstock & Ingersoll this year.
Every year, the Food Drive continues to get bigger and bigger. We have a few small rural areas in Oxford County where the REALTORS® there are some of the most inspired people we’ve met. They want to make an impact, regardless of how big their community is.
We must also thank the Salvation Army. As a local organization not always equipped for these large donations, they always make room for us and take every item of food we have.
Q: What has been the key to your success in keeping and building momentum over the years?
A: The number one reason we’ve been successful is consistency. Because we host the Food Drive the first Wednesday of every May, people know we’re coming. And thanks to our REALTOR® members who promote the event throughout the year, it stays top of mind for people in our community.
Our team has also combined our real estate marketing techniques and applied them to the Food Drive – putting out lawn signs, putting together info packages for REALTORS® to share in their communities, creating door hangers, and even going on local radio stations to promote the cause.
The Salvation Army plays a huge part in this as well. Leading up to the Food Drive, they put together a list of what they need. We include this list on our promotional materials, so people know what items are most needed.
Q: Can you tell us what has inspired you to be a part of this program and why?
Tammy Betzner, RCC Chair:
A: I joined as Chair on the committee over 10 years ago. The previous Chair had to step down due to their child’s health and I didn’t want to see the Food Drive end. Once I joined, I never looked back. For me, it’s important to be on the committee because it’s an opportunity to highlight the amazing work REALTORS® in this region are doing. Our members have vested interests in their community and really care for the people living in them. I’m inspired by this work and doing my best to build them up and give them the recognition they deserve.
Mary Baxter, RCC Staff Liaison:
A: This role was a natural fit for me. I’ve always loved planning events and have been involved with the Food Drive for many years. I think this committee is the best because of the work they do. There’s so much gratification in putting together an event of this scale knowing the positive impact it will have. It’s also fun to be working with our REALTORS® members and finding ways to improve success year over year.