Part One of my blog focused on my passion for Cresa and community service.  Here in Part Two, I will tell you about how our plans are shaping up for our exciting new nonprofit venture called REC4AF (Real Estate Careers for Armed Forces) and Cresa’s new Armed Forces Practice Group.

Part of my responsibilities in the DC office is to help hire and mentor young advisors.  In March, we recruited Jeremy Melmed, who had worked at CoStar, then relocated to Orange County, CA, to learn about property management, and moved back to his hometown of Bethesda to get into the commercial real estate advisory business.  He set his sights on Cresa.  His maturity, enthusiasm, and drive made choosing him easy.

I brainstormed with Jeremy about an initiative to reach out to veterans and help engage them in the real estate industry.  Jeremy secured a meeting with the Association of the United Sates Army (AUSA)—which since 1950 has supported all aspects of national security while advancing the interests of the U.S. Army and those who serve. We discussed critical issues, including the difficulty veterans have transitioning from military life to civilian life, as well as the employment challenges of spouses of veterans who are currently in service and frequently have to relocate.

We broached what Cresa and the whole real estate industry can do to help. For example, one idea was to engage the property management sector to train and provide jobs for spouses of veterans.  Being a property manager for buildings is a skill that is transferable in almost any city of the country. And many of the property management firms are national, so spouses could transfer within the same company if they were relocated.

Jeremy and I walked out of that meeting feeling charged up.  Through the AUSA, we were introduced to the American Freedom Foundation (AFF), whose mission is to better the lives of veterans, military service members, and their families. We contacted Ted Hacker, AFF Co-Founder, President and COO, and Sargent Major Jack Tilley, AFF Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, and discussed the employment issues veterans face after they leave the military. Again, the strategy that resonated was to involve many disciplines in the commercial real estate industry and address opportunities for thousands of jobs at all levels of education and skills.

Following this meeting, we accelerated our mobilization efforts, seeking ways to create a local job training, mentoring, and hiring program for veterans and their families. We set up meetings with veterans who transitioned into civilian life.  We met with other associations and nonprofits that support veterans and their families.  We met with firms that have veteran hiring programs.  We met with firms that develop veteran programs for companies. We went to a veteran job fair and talked to the people that run these events.

All this points to one conclusion: This is a viable idea and a great idea.  And it fills a great need, since there aren’t other veteran hiring programs supported by an entire industry.

So, our efforts are underway, and our Armed Forces Practice Group at Cresa is growing, with the recent addition of another veteran, Winters Heafey in Denver. We’re starting in the Greater DC and Baltimore area, but our intention is to launch this initiative on a national level, with Cresa spearheading the effort.

I want to thank my partners at Cresa for supporting this bold initiative. We want to share our progress and enlist your support if you’re interested. Stay tuned for Part Three of this blog in which we will tell you about exciting new plans including trade show participation and more specifics as this dream come to fruition.