BHHS Fox & Roach and KACS kick Off Don’t Settle for Homelessness initiative03/15/2022 03:05PM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Richard L. Gaw Peter and Joelle Waterkotte of The Waterkotte Group, center, recently launched the “Closing for KACS” initiative under the Don’t Settle for Homelessness program in collaboration with Kennett Area Community Service, that will give real estate sales representatives at the agency the option of dedicating a portion of their closing commissions to KACS. Also pictured are, at left, Jamie Kleman and Sarah Golden, at right, of KACS.
By Richard L. Gaw
Several months ago, Jamie Kleman, the Engagement Strategist for Kennett Area Community Service (KACS), was heading to the nonprofit’s office on W. Cedar Street in Kennett Square when she saw a “For Sale” sign protruding from the ground in the front yard of a home.
What followed next created an invaluable collaboration with a local real estate group that is projected to raise thousands of dollars for KACS and provide a wide variety of assistance to those in need throughout Southern Chester County – and quite possibly thousands of other people around the United States.
“In my head, I started to connect the dots,” Kleman said. “I started to think how amazing it would be if every time a family was settling into a new home, that change could help a family or individual who was experiencing, or about to experience, homelessness.”
The seeds of a new initiative began to take root.
When Kleman arrived at work, she discussed her idea with KACS Communications and Engagement Director Sarah Golden and Executive Director Leah Reynolds. Within a few days, Kleman met with Peter Waterkotte who, along with his wife Joelle Waterkotte, manages The Waterkotte Group, a Kennett Square real estate team and part of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach.
Within weeks, Kleman and Golden were pitching the idea on Zoom to dozens of other agents in the BHHS Fox & Roach Kennett office. The concept was a simple one: At every closing, participating agents from the agency would have an opportunity to designate a portion of their commission to KACS, which would then be tracked, distributed, and used to support KACS programs and provide for emergency services.
“Closing for KACS,” a program designed to fall under the Don’t Settle for Homelessness umbrella, went live last week, and the invitation to contribute to KACS is open to all agents in the Kennett office and will be offered to multiple BHHS Fox & Roach locations throughout Chester County in the upcoming months. Each agent will be able to designate a percentage or any amount they wish to donate, whether they are on the buying or selling side of their transaction.
For Peter Waterkotte, the timing of the proposal was perfect and directly on target with the aspirations of the agency – to align itself with a local non-profit organization.
“When Jamie and Sarah first approached us, my initial reaction was that the idea was already laid out and in motion,” said Waterkotte, a former member of the Kennett Borough Council. “It was just a matter of forming this relationship between our group and KACS, which then turned into a relationship with Berkshire Hathaway.”
Crucial need for additional funding
The “Closing for KACS” initiative could not have begun at a more crucial time. Golden said that the agency’s Emergency Assistance Team is currently fielding 90 cases in a range of crisis services.
“The difference that this program will make for us will be unbelievable,” she said. “It will go towards our programs focused on helping to re-house homeless families in our area. While it takes care of so many elements of what KACS is trying to do, it also opens up opportunities for other organizations and businesses to embrace a ‘cause marketing’ approach that will allow them to feel a sense of responsibility and form a mutual partnership of promotion.”
The long-term impact of the “Closing for KACS” initiative won’t just end with the BHHS Fox & Roach Kennett office but will be extended to the agency’s other area locations in Jennersville, Unionville, Chadds Ford and Hockessin, and the 92 other Berkshire Hathaway offices and their agents in the Mid-Atlantic region. In addition, Berkshire Hathaway’s Charity Services will be matching 25 percent of every contribution that will be made.
“While ‘Closing for KACS’ may be our specific program, once we are able to show the difference and impact it makes and how easy it is to implement, we hope to encourage other states to model it and help eradicate homelessness in their own backyards, using their own creativity under the Don’t Settle for Homelessness initiative,” Kleman said. “Homelessness is an issue that has no boundaries and while we’re thrilled that we pioneered the program, our goal is to create a national impact.”
‘A new awakening’
Joelle Waterkotte said that ultimately, the initiative will be presented to the entire Berkshire Hathaway real estate family at a future national convention – which includes as many as 35,000 agents. “When Jamie and Sarah first introduced this concept to us, all I could think about was, ‘We have to do it,’” she said. “It’s a perfect message and it fits so well with what we already do for a living. It extends the idea that while we are helping people settle into their own homes, we can actually help someone who is losing – or is about to lose – a home.
“Best of all, it happens at the moment when we as agents are being reciprocated for the work that we have done, and what a better time for us to set aside some of that commission in order to help others? It is something that we can do every single day, and it has become a new passion for all of us – a new awakening.”
To learn more about the Don’t Settle for Homelessness initiative at Kennett Area Community Service, visit www.kacsonline.net.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].