Realty firm lists aiding community as key goal
HUNTINGTON — In the summer of 2016, several areas of West Virginia were flooded after 8 to 10 inches of rain fell over a period of 12 hours. The flooding devastated thousands of homes and many lives.
“This is when the Old Colony Cares idea started,” said Zachary Rankin, a Realtor with Old Colony Realtors in Barboursville. “We began collecting items for those affected by the floods.”
After that effort, the next community service project for Old Colony Cares was to help the local Habitat for Humanity.
“We donated $4,000 to help replace stolen tools,” Rankin said.
Now the agency is turning its attention to one of Huntington’s most vexing problems — dilapidated, unsafe structures.
Old Colony Cares is a program that gives back to the local communities it serves in the Tri-State by supporting charitable causes and community service projects.
Each year, Old Colony Realtors donates to the Huntington City Mission and the Boys and Girls Club Golf Scramble event.
“We will also be a title sponsor for the Huntington Board of Realtors Tower Hill Challenge Obstacle Course Race for the third year in a row,” Rankin said. “The event raises proceeds to help with the Barboursville Community Outreach Program, as well as the Barboursville Wellness Center.”
Last year, Old Colony Realtors collected items to help with the Backpack and Brown Bags initiative.
“You can see some of the work done with this charity on the Netflix documentary ‘Heroin(e),’ starring our own Necia Freeman,” Rankin said.
Freeman, a Realtor with Old Colony Realtors, is well known for her passion to help communities in the Tri-State region.
“The population decline in Huntington has been a contributing factor to many of the issues facing the city, including its abandoned housing problem,” Freeman said. “Instead of just complaining about vacant and dilapidated houses, we wanted to do something about it.”
This year, Old Colony Cares donated funds to help in the demolition of a home on Huntington’s tear-down list.
According to Christal Perry, demolition specialist for the city of Huntington, there are currently 172 abandoned structures that have been ordered to be demolished in the city.
“We know there are more, and the public has been good about reporting them,” Perry said. “Right now, we have 100 buildings targeted for demolition in 2019 and 13 of those have already been taken down.”
Perry says the costs to demolish a home can range from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the size of the structure and if excessive asbestos is an issue.
“It can be costly, depending on the issues involved with each demolition,” she said.
Between late fall 2017 and the end of 2018, 53 dilapidated structures were demolished in Huntington.
“Amazingly, more than $400,000 has been donated by private individuals for demolition. Most have been anonymous donors,” Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said in his State of the City address Feb. 15.
One of those donors was Old Colony Realtors through its Old Colony Cares program. The company donated $8,000 to the city to tear down a dilapidated house in the 1800 block of Charleston Avenue. The house was selected by Old Colony Realtors because of its location near an elementary school.
“Students walking to school at Spring Hill Elementary had to pass by it,” said Mark Mansour, broker at Old Colony Realtors in Barboursville. “We felt like this one would make the most impact in that neighborhood.”
The home next door is a nice home, according to Mansour.
“When one of these houses is demolished, it increases the value of all the houses in that neighborhood,” he said. “When a neighborhood is cleaned up, it helps bring in economic activity to that neighborhood.”
Mansour says the economic impact of selling a house in West Virginia can be around $50,000.
“It is very important to the sustainability of the real estate industry to keep neighborhoods alive and thriving,” he said.
Mansour said Old Colony Realtors has 38 Realtors with 603 years of combined experience.
“We have been around 75 years and we want to be part of solutions to problems facing the communities we serve, so it’s important to us that we stay involved and give back as much as we can to those communities,” he said.
Old Colony Realtors has also issued a challenge to other businesses to match their donation or give any amount to help improve community neighborhoods by demolishing unsafe, abandoned structures.
“We can all do something to help with this problem,” Freeman added. “Real estate companies can get together to make a donation; banks can make a donation; insurance and closing companies that are part of the housing market can make a donation. We can’t wait for the government to save us. Even as citizens or those in the business community, we must be proactive and do our part to make our neighborhoods better one house at a time.”
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.