Spirit of EXIT: The Ripple Effect

Beth Oertel loves her dogs.  During this conversation with EXIT Realty Corp. International’s Senior Vice President, Susan Harrison, Beth shares how that love blossomed into thousands of dollars raised to help veterans through K9s for Warriors, and positively impacted Beth’s real estate business, too! 

Susan: So how did it all start?

Beth: When I moved to Tennessee, I was getting my real estate license and I was super excited and in a place of gratitude. I had more time to spend with my dogs and it was best gift in the whole world. So, I thought to myself, how could I gift a dog’s love to somebody else? I’ve always been a big supporter of our servicemen and women, and so I did some research and found out about K9s for Warriors, an organization that trains service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

A week or two later, I had a meeting with my Broker, Ed Andrews, and he asked me, (not knowing any of this), What is your dream? I told him I wanted to donate a service dog to a veteran, but it cost $25,000 and I didn’t know how I was going to do it because at the time, I wasn’t making any money. He said, of course you can do it, we will figure out a way.

Susan: And then you got to work.

Beth: Yes. I put it out into the world, and I told some people about my idea. A lender I knew told me of a friend who was an army veteran with a service dog and suggested a meeting.

Jason owns a gym where I met him and his dog. We talked about a few event ideas to raise money and decided on the golf outing. Even though I had never been to a golf outing or even golfed 18-holes, I booked it with a local country club. COVID postponed it about six months, but as soon as I could, I got to work on getting sponsors and basically learning how to do an entire event.

When we announced to the office that we were going to do this, we had Jason come speak as to how his service dog has helped him and there was not a dry eye in the room.

Susan: And along the way, you and Ed applied to the Spirit of EXIT for a match.

Beth: You guys are just so generous. We reached out for the match, and you said yes and truly it meant the world.  It is the reason that we were able to donate the dog. The Spirit of EXIT match made that happen.

Susan: A portion of every transaction fee received by EXIT Realty Corp. International is set aside for charity. Through the Spirit of EXIT Dollar-for-Dollar Matching Program, EXIT Associates can raise funds for local, approved, registered charities and apply to have those funds matched from our pool of funds. We committed to match $12,500 of the money you raised, and including the match, your golf event resulted in more than enough money raised to sponsor a dog. But it didn’t end there, right? Tell us about the ripple effect.

Beth: Heather Devermann, who heads up our commercial department, found an article in the paper about a hundred veteran-owned commercial businesses and we mailed a letter to them. One of the business owners who answered the letter donated to our fundraiser and was inspired to hold her own later that year where she raised approximately $39,000.

Susan:  And I understand that Tami Bonnell, EXIT’s Co-Chair, told one of her girlfriends about your golf outing, and that girlfriend’s company held a fundraiser in honor of Tami’s late son, Shane, on Veterans Day. Tami told me they raised $25,000 which was enough to provide a dog, plus an additional $12,500 towards another one.

Beth:  That’s right. All totaled, several dogs were donated as a direct result of our outing. This is important because K9s for Warriors’ wait list extends to 2026 right now.

Susan: That’s fantastic.  I know you didn’t hold this fundraiser with the goal of increasing your real estate business, but it has, right?  

Beth: Absolutely. Not only do people in the community recognize me, but I made more friends, I connected with more people, and I built more relationships because of it. The business owners who sponsored our event and I refer business back and forth and they were added to the referral directory I give to all of my clients.  I started my own BNI (Business Network International) group and some of the people from the golf outing are now members.

One of my favorite stories is this. I met with someone looking to sell their house in the most expensive neighborhood in our county. They interviewed another agent who had 17 years more experience than me and that agent “owned” the neighborhood.  As part of my marketing, I give away a bottle opener that looks like a credit card – it fits in your wallet and has “Proud Supporter of K9s for Warriors” and my information on it. It’s a talking piece and I use it in place of a business card. Well, it just so happens these people lived in a golf course neighborhood and the woman is the director of philanthropy for her ladies’ group. She saw the bottle opener and we started talking about my work with K9s for Warriors. She asked for my sponsorship form, and I got the listing.

Susan: Readers are invited to find out more about the important work of K9s for Warriors by visiting their website.  EXIT Associates can find out more about the Spirit of EXIT Dollar-for-Dollar Matching Program in the Resource Center. Beth, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Beth: I love the Spirit of EXIT. Thank you for having it.  I tell people that EXIT Corporate gave $12,500 to our fundraiser, and they’re like, What!? They did!? I want to be with a company that does that. Your support means everything.

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