REALTORS® lead “caremongering” efforts in response to COVID-19

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, REALTORS® from coast to coast have been coming up with creative ways to support their neighbours in need. Bruce Johnson, Jacquie McCarnan and Nectaria Kladitis are three such REALTORS®, who have applied some of the networking talents and technology skills they usually employ in their real estate businesses to launching “caremongering” sites in their local communities.

“Caremongering” is a relatively new term describing a grassroots movement that helps anyone in need of assistance due to the impacts of COVID-19. Caremongering is usually facilitated through community-centred websites or Facebook groups, where volunteers can easily connect with locals looking for some extra help.

“It’s friends and neighbours helping vulnerable community members with necessities, like rides for medical appointments or food supply trips or pet walking. It’s asking for help and offering help in the same group,” says REALTOR® and salesperson Bruce Johnson, who created a caremongering group for his small community of Wasaga Beach, Ontario, at the start of the pandemic.

“It was about 3 o’clock in the morning, and I couldn’t sleep because I had this caremongering idea in my head that I wanted to create, based on one I saw in Toronto,” Johnson says of why he created “Caremongering—Wasaga Beach” on Facebook.

Johnson has avidly encouraged others over social media to create similar groups in their communities, hoping to maximize the potential impact of the grassroots movement across Canada.

North Vancouver REALTOR® and salesperson Jacquie McCarnan’s story of goodwill in the age of COVID-19 is similar. Inspired by a Vancouver-based caremongering group on Facebook, she felt compelled to create “COVID19 Coming Together—North Vancouver,” a Facebook group that now boasts over 3,200 members.

“I started the group right away, and the biggest inspiration for that was my own mom and dad, wanting to make sure they were OK,” says McCarnan of her parents, who are living halfway across the country from her and are in their late 80s. “I was just really worried about them, and I wished that there was something that could help.”

Once McCarnan’s caremongering group began to take off, she ran into a significant hurdle: lots of people were volunteering help, but not many people were requesting any.

“Most seniors are not on Facebook,” explains McCarnan. “I made a poster that says, ‘Do you need some help? Local volunteer group willing to grab your prescriptions, grab your groceries.’ Then we started to get a lot more buy-in.”

There have been hundreds of positive interactions between volunteers and people needing assistance thanks to the group. McCarnan has been personally moved by many of the stories.

“I have one woman, her name is Lou, and every time somebody takes her groceries, she phones me to gush about how much she loves them. It’s so cute. They just love having people to talk to,” she says.

Even though REALTORS®, like everyone else, are facing countless new challenges posed by the pandemic, this has not discouraged their giving spirit nor their desire to help their neighbours.

“I’m just a neighbour helping out my neighbours,” emphasizes Broker Nectaria Kladitis. She was not anticipating the success nor the recognition that has come since starting “East for East,” a website focused on matching volunteers with people who need help in Toronto’s East end.

For anyone looking to start a caremongering group, Kladitis shares this advice: “I’m a strong believer that you don’t want to wait to have all the systems and processes in place. You don’t have to know everything, don’t have to be a systems person, a tech person.”

People are seeking good news more than ever before during this global pandemic. Joining an existing caremongering group or starting your own can be an excellent way to spark some positivity right in your own community.

Pictured above: Staff at the Cardiac Surgery Unit at Lion’s Gate Hospital in North Vancouver show their gratitude for all the help and community support they’ve received thanks to local caremongering groups. Submitted by REALTOR® Jacquie McCarnan.

Holly Johnson was a Summer Student working on CREA’s Advocacy team. Since 2013, Holly and her father, a National Association of REALTORS® Good Neighbor Award winner Bruce Johnson, have raised $675,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network through their long-distance motorcycle trips. Their most recent ride was a six-month journey from the Arctic Circle to the southernmost town in the world—Ushuaia, Argentina. She enjoys road trips, playing piano, and sharing good news!

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