Friday, August 31, 2007

Suitcases for Kids

It has often been illustrated that through the eyes of a child the world appears to be an uncomplicated place where the most perplexing situations seem but a daydream away. Such was the case for a talented and young visionary named Aubyn Burnside.

In 1995, as a ten year old girl, Aubyn founded a wonderful program called Suitcases for Kids after she had learned that children in foster homes and foster care programs are often called upon to relocate with very little notice and are forced to transport their personal belongings in trash bags.

Now try to imagine that. A child who is just a lost soul searching for a sense of belonging. A child who is essentially homeless due to no fault of their own and as if to magnify this reality is forced to stuff all of their worldly belongings into a garbage bag!

“ I thought it was horrible that the children had nothing to carry their things in as they moved so many times. I wanted to make them feel special by giving them something of their own to keep. I tried to put myself in their place and think how I would feel”, said Aubyn.

Aubyn put the word out to 4-H clubs and Scout group organizations and church and social club gatherings and successfully delivered 175 suitcases to Catawba County Department of Social Services in March of 1996.

Within a month, suitcase deliveries had found their way to eight surrounding counties as the program partnered with Families for Kids which was an initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to improve foster care for children.

Suitcase for Kids distributed 4,000 suitcases locally in 1996 and by the end of its first full year was in operation in 19 states and in all fifty by the end of its second year.
Currently, Suitcases for Kids is an international non-profit organization with chapters in every state as well as many foreign countries.

The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors is proud to announce our second year of involvement in this most benevolent cause and we hope to build on last years success when we collected eighty new suitcases and duffel bags, two truckloads of personal care items such as new clothes, basic toiletries , diapers, soap, shampoo as well as over two thousand dollars in cash donations from our generous membership.

This years drive will end on Friday September the 14, 2007 for our members but the Suitcases for Kids program will remain ongoing. To donate to our effort on behalf of the program please contact our MLS office at 1-269-983-6375 or visit us at or to find out more information on the program please visit

It is our chosen profession to help families to find that special place to call home and it seems a natural progression to affect this positive change and to help these children feel at home, regardless of where they call home.

Please rally around this cause, it is truly a need to be filled!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Market Upturn

The National Association of Realtors reported today that a forward-looking indicator based on pending sales of existing homes suggests the market may stabilize in the months ahead.

The Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in June, was still 8.6 percent lower than a year ago, rose 5 percent to 102.4 from the downwardly revised May index of 97.5. This was the largest monthly gain in more than three years, since a 6.1 percent increase in March 2004, according to NAR.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.

Between May and June, the index in the West increased 8.6 percent to 103.6; in the Northeast, it was up 3.1 percent to 96; in the South, it increased 4.7 percent to 111.6; and in the Midwest, the index gained 3.5 percent to 92.5.

NAR senior economist Lawrence Yun said that it is encouraging the increase occurred in all four major regions. "However, it is too early to say if home sales have already passed bottom," he said. "Still, major declines in home sales are likely to have occurred already and further declines, if any, are likely to be modest given the accumulating pent-up demand."

The indexes in all four regions were still lower than the same time last year, despite the month-over-month gains, with the West 5.5 percent lower than June 2006, the Northeast down 2.4 percent, the South off 12.7 percent, and the Midwest lower by 8.2 percent.

The index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of entering into contract.

Annual changes in the index are more closely related to actual market performance than are month-to-month comparisons. As the relatively new index matures and seasonal adjustment factors are refined, the month-to-month comparisons will become more meaningful.

These statistics and data were compiled by the National Association of Realtors and were reported by Inman news on August 1, 2007.