West Palm Beach, Florida
It started as a way to connect with people and industry in South Florida over thirty years ago, when NAI Merin Hunter Codman Chairman, Neil E. Merin, SIOR, CCIM was just beginning his commercial real estate career. Back then, community engagement and volunteering was practically the only way professionals, including attorneys and CPAs, could market themselves and their firms.
As Merin’s business grew and thrived, he added partners, staff, and many of the top-performing brokers serving South Florida. While community service had always played a central role in the firm’s activities, it wasn’t until 12 years ago that Merin, his partners and entire company made it a cornerstone of their enterprise. That’s when Merin and two other Palm Beach County business leaders spearheaded the first Get Down to Business Lunch to impress upon the business community the importance of giving back. Since its inception, this signature annual event has doubled in size and raised over $1.2 million dollars in support of Easterseals’ West Palm Beach Igoe-Amar Child Development Center, which provides services for children that are developmentally disabled. Merin was and remains an Honorary member of the Palm Beach Advisory Board for Easterseals and an Honorary Co-Chairman for the Get Down to Business.
“You could say the inception of the Easterseals’ luncheon was the moment when we pivoted as a firm and formally adopted the NAI Merin Hunter Codman Real Leaders program, the firm’s commitment to community service,” said NAI Merin Hunter Codman, Inc. CEO Jordan Paul, which is based in West Palm Beach with regional offices in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington, FL.
Since forming the NAI Merin Hunter Codman Real Leaders program, the firm has donated over 10,000 hours to local charities. Quarterly, NAI Merin Hunter Codman selects a charity to support and employees are given company time off to serve the chosen program – employees even select the event or program. Each year the company donates at least $25,000 and over 1,000 man hours performing community service. By any measure, it’s a stunning list of community organizations the firm has supported, and include:
Easterseals (disability services)
Education Foundation of Palm Beach County
Urban League of Palm Beach County
Leadership Palm Beach County
Families First of Palm Beach County
American Heart Association
Habitat for Humanity
Diabetes Research Foundation
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management
Kids in Distress
Quantum House (a caring and supportive home that lessens the burden for families whose children are receiving treatment in Palm Beach County for a serious medical condition)
Delray Beach Children’s Garden
Big Heart Brigade (Palm Beach County Fire Department/local church effort to bring wrapped Thanksgiving dinners to those in need),
Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center (helps disabled children and adults by working with therapeutic horses)
Big (and Little) Dog Rescue Ranch
Peggy Adams Animal Rescue
Florida Panther Preserve
Red Apple School Supplies
Everyone is involved, regardless of company position or title.
CEO Jordan Paul, for example, serves on the board of the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County, which is dedicated to raising funds for public schools. The Foundation has created a medical academy that enables high school students to graduate with a certificate for providing basic medical services, including emergency aid. In addition, the Foundation runs a fire academy that trains students in basic firefighting services and the work done by EMTs. Yet Mr. Paul is most passionate about the Red Apple Supply Store – a retail outlet for teachers that can shop for student supplies for free, all of which are purchased by private businesses.
“The average teacher in America spends between $1500 and $2000 a year of their own money to buy supplies – pens, pencils, scissors etc., for families that can’t afford them – we’re addressing that locally,” said Jordan Paul.
NAI Merin Hunter Codman even negotiated a lease for the Red Apple store, then all-company hands converged on it to stock the shelves.
“The original goal of NAI Merin Hunter Codman’s Real Leaders Program was to empower employees to give back to their communities, setting the stage for leadership in both business and community. Now, 12 years later, it has become ingrained in the firm’s culture and become part of our DNA. The program has been great for team building and has helped attract employees, especially Millennials who want more out of employment than just jobs. The program offers personal satisfaction resulting in happy, fulfilled - better employees. Of course, we do believe that the community service program adds to our bottom line, but that is not the point. Meeting people from companies that see us doing community service projects puts us in a different light – they appreciate the competency, honesty and integrity. If nothing else it provides leverage in a tie-breaker situation, allowing us to potentially win assignments that could have easily gone to a competitor,” Jordan Paul said.