April 17, 2015

O’Neal sells real estate and helps real people

2015 Women of Distinction - Real Estate, Construction and Development

Real estate is more than an investment in property to Mary O’Neal. It’s an investment in people.

For example, during the recent economic recession years, millions of homes nationally went into foreclosure, leaving many individuals and families destitute and broken.

To help people get through or even around the dark times locally, the Weld County Foreclosure Coalition came together in September 2007. O’Neal served on the coalition as a representative for the real-estate industry where she is a broker associate/partner with The Group Inc. Real Estate. In her role with the coalition, she assisted with the planning, recruiting resources, promotion and education for residents who were facing short sale or foreclosure on their property.

“Some banks weren’t that friendly talking to people during that time,” she said.  As a result of the coalition, the conversations were made easier and more helpful to homeowners.

“I put out fliers throughout northern Colorado to educate people and let them know how as a community we could help them get through it.”

Another personal touch that O’Neal has made involved creating the O’Neal Family Endowment Fund for Weld County student scholarships.

“I established funds in the Weld County Community Foundation Greeley using my commission on a property I sold,” she said. “I could now give out $1,500, but I want it to be more so I’m letting it sit there and grow.”

At work, O’Neal helped her company establish GroupGives, a self-directed fund through the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado. 

Grants from the program assist organizations and programs in numerous ways. Some of those include helping with the rent for Project Self-Sufficiency, with materials for home repair projects for Be the Gift, Inc., and with the home-delivered meal program for Meals on Wheels for Fort Collins.

“It gives the opportunity to give money to a mission, and for us it’s about housing,” O’Neal said. 

Last year the company gave more than $50,000 and is working to make the project more established by building the fund up so only the interest rather than the principal is going to projects.

As a committed service person, O’Neal said one of her greater passions is involvement with the Rotary Club.

“The Rotary is so fundamentally focused on service and giving to others,” she said. “Locally and internationally they bring people together to get things done.”

As a member of the Centennial Rotary World Service Committee, O’Neal helped establish a vocational school in Peru. “It’s a safe fort there for them,” she said about her trip to the school and how the students regarded it.

“I can’t explain the feeling around being part of something like that. I know it’s overused, but you get back more than you give.”

How does O’Neal tie her work in real estate with her emphasis on volunteering?

“I get to talk to people daily about achieving their dreams or about moving on due to sadness,” she said. “When you’re in real estate, you’re a counselor and an educator.

“There are times when I’ve put my hand on the hand of someone who’s elderly and said, ‘You really need to go and be with family now.’ ”

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