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Realtors put some sweat into Gabriel House

Volunteers paint, clean, sort clothes

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POSTED: May 14, 2013 7:00 a.m.
Photo by Randy C. Murray/

Keller Williams agent Kristin West cleans a refrigerator in the outdoor kitchen at Gabriel’s House.

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Scores of Keller Williams Realty associates from Hinesville, Richmond Hill and Pooler donated their time and energy Thursday to cleaning up the grounds and facilities at Gabriel’s House, a foster-care facility off Highway 84, east of the Highway 196 cut-off.
“This event is an entrenched part of Keller Williams Realty’s culture and displays the extraordinary effect a company can have when individuals come together to work as a team for the greater good of everyone,” said Beth Braun, a local Keller Williams agent. “Last year, we worked at the Broad Street YMCA in Savannah.”
Braun said this year, more than 200 regional associates worked at Gabriel’s House, the Broad Street YMCA and the Treutlen House in Rincon. She said the event is called “Red Day,” which stands for “renew, energize and donate.” All the associates wore red T-shirts as they dug weeds from flower beds, painted the side of a barn, sorted donated clothing and cleaned outdoor kitchen facilities.
Since the first Red Day in 2009, Keller Williams associates in the United States and Canada have given nearly half a million hours in community service, Braun said. Now an annual event, Red Day is observed the second Thursday in May.
Keller Williams Realty is a real-estate franchise organization headquartered in Austin, Texas, with offices in the United States and Canada, according to Braun. Gary W. Keller and Joe Williams co-founded Keller Williams Realty in 1983.
“This is the first time we’ve had anything like this,” said Tammy Kersey, operations manager at Gabriel’s House. “We’ve never had a group come out and help us.”
Kersey spent 18 years working in the Liberty County School System before she was asked in 2004 to help get Gabriel’s House started. The property is owned by the Osteen family and all the members of the family have a part in the facility’s operation.
She said Gabriel’s House provides a quality home environment for foster children from birth to 12 years old. The home specifically was created to prevent siblings from being separated when placed in foster care after being removed from abusive home situations by the Department of Family and Children Services.
Gabriel’s House started out in a 17,500-square-foot leased facility, Kersey said. In 2007 they bought 77 acres to create what now is called Gabriel’s House Ranch. A long driveway passes through a tall, wrought-iron gate, winding around green fields where horses graze. A big red barn with a massive screened-in porch contains outdoor kitchen facilities.
Realtor Lynette Messer rubbed down special bar stools made from horse saddles while another Realtor, Kristin West, cleaned the refrigerator. Others cleaned tables, swept and mopped floors.
Outside, Peggy Graves, manager of the Richmond Hill office, and Realtor Leanne Brindle planted flowers. Nearby, Paulette Parker brushed wood-stain sealant on the side of a small barn. Having completed their project, Realtors Matt Hill and Ben Barksdale looked for a new one while three ladies categorized donated clothing by size and gender.
House mother Marla Strather and counselor/case manager Alesha Stanley led toddlers by the hand, allowing them to investigate the activities. Kersey said the school-age children are picked up and returned on weekdays by a school bus at the front gate.
“We have a very good rapport with the schools,” she said. “We list the parents on the school forms, but they know we’re the guardians. Our long-term goals include having a school here on site and even a maternity home.”
Kersey said anyone interested in donating to Gabriel’s House can call 884-4593.

 

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