TREB Community Service Award winner Susan Gucci says her name is known for real estate sales, but the real rewards come from charitable work.

Susan Gucci’s broker, Craig Homewood (left) and TREB president Tom Lebour were on hand when Gucci was presented with the award.

Susan Gucci’s broker, Craig Homewood (left) and TREB president Tom Lebour were on hand when Gucci was presented with the award.

By Susan Doran

“Embarrassed!” is how sales rep Susan Gucci responds when asked how she felt winning one of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB)’s prestigious Community Service Awards last June, presented to her at a special cocktail reception at the board’s head office.

“It’s a big deal. The guy who organized Obama’s presidential campaign (David Plouffe) gave a speech…It was my first big community service award and it felt great. But the attention … it’s a bit overwhelming,” she says.

“There was a big picture of me up front – the only good one I have; I’m thankful for that. I guess I’m more comfortable giving than getting.”

Craig Homewood, her broker at the Bayview Avenue branch of the Royal LePage office in Toronto where Gucci has worked since she entered the real estate business three years ago, says Gucci is  “very community minded. As a mother of three, her community focus has been on families and schools. She was integral in instituting the breakfast program at East York Collegiate Institute (EYCI) – very effective in helping students to be able to learn better – as well as in implementing a program to recognize and award deserving teachers at that school. She’s also run a very popular community skate at a local arena the past few years.”

A member of the TREB Education Committee as well as a leader on various parent/school councils over the years, Gucci knows her way around the system and has been instrumental in developing media campaigns to promote programs where necessary.

To discover precisely why Gucci is deserving of a community service award, let’s begin with the breakfast program at EYCI that she helped start up last year.

With a son in grade 11 at the high school, she’s been co-chair of the school parent’s council for a couple of years.

“At a meeting, the principal said she was feeding some kids who needed breakfast. It pulled at our heart strings,” says Gucci. “So we instituted a program, running completely on donations from local businesses and parents, along with staff and student volunteers. It’s a ‘grab-and-go’ healthy-choice snack breakfast – juice, apples, bananas, yogurt, peanut-free granola bars, cheese and crackers…”

It’s been proven that good nutrition can improve achievement. But although breakfast programs are common at the elementary school level, in high schools they’re not. Students were reluctant to use the program at first but the participation rate increased rapidly. Now the school feeds 150 children per day, Gucci estimates.

“By the time I get to school I’m hungry so it really helps,” says one student. “I get to eat. I concentrate more in class.”

Says Gucci: “The kids are happy and they’re so glad to see us there.”

EYCI must have thanked its lucky stars when Gucci joined their parent school council. She’d been a whirlwind on other school councils, helping with everything from community bicycle safety awareness to developing a benchmark parent communication system.

Once she came on board at EYCI, on top of the breakfast program she helped co-ordinate such projects as hosting a luncheon to recognize over 130 teachers; organizing a community forum on Internet safety; bringing peer mentors into the school; improving parent-to-parent communications by almost tripling the distribution list of parent email addresses (“I don’t mind approaching people. It’s fun,” she says); supporting the school robotics team through a NASA-sponsored national competition; and spearheading a drive to gain greater teacher recognition for the school at the provincial level.

The latter culminated in the school garnering seven nominations for Ontario’s 2009 Premier’s Awards for Teaching Excellence. Gucci says she was the driving force promoting the school to the local media and rallying parents to submit letters of support for various excellent EYCI teachers, teams and staff.

“It increased the profile of the school. And it’s so nice to see teachers feeling good about being acknowledged,” says Gucci.

She occasionally does some volunteer teaching herself (on the topic of economics and the importance of staying in school), for an extracurricular non-profit group called Junior Achievement.

“I try to focus on under-privileged areas where the kids may not be getting this message at home,” she says.

Before getting into real estate Gucci was in pharmaceutical and Xerox sales, both of which she says provided her with a marketing background and great sales training. Once in real estate, Gucci “figured if I took good care of my clients the numbers would follow.”

They have, and she has achievement awards to prove it.

“The more knowledge I have the more I can help clients. I want to completely immerse myself, but to take time to recharge too,” she says. “It’s a great feeling, very rewarding, to use the skills I’ve developed. I had clients win a house that had about 30 offers on it. It was like winning a lottery. They were jumping up and down and hugging and kissing me.”

People want to hear what’s going on in with real estate, she says, so she’s always up to speed on the latest statistics. Unabashedly social and with her passion for learning (“I go into a room wondering who I’m going to meet,” she says), she appreciates that real estate broadens her networking opportunities.

“My name is known in the community,” she says. “But that’s not why I do community service. The sweet secret of giving is that you really get so much more in return. It’s very soul-satisfying, something you can’t put a price on.”

Posted: 2010-01-08 07:22:16

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