When Lara Gordon Caralis met the founder and CEO of Second Chances through a real estate transaction several years ago, she was immediately drawn to the organization’s mission to put donated clothing to work for our community, diverting clothing, shoes, and accessories from local landfills while helping our neighbors in need take their first steps toward brighter futures. Each February since 2017, Lara has led the "Love Your Neighbor" clothing drive in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Lara coordinates the drive through our offices in Cambridge and Arlington and has seen great success year after year.
Read on to learn more about Lara's partnership with Second Chances and her advice for agents who wish to support their local communities.
Tell us a bit about Second Chances! What inspired you to get involved with this organization initially?
Second Chances is a Somerville-based non-profit that provides clothing to homeless and low-income people in Cambridge, Somerville, and neighboring communities. I became acquainted with Andrea Shapiro, the founder and CEO, during a real estate transaction several years ago, and she introduced me to the organization.
Do you have any fun memories or highlights from drives over the years? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
This is our seventh year running the Love Your Neighbor drive, and it feels like we've got it down to a pretty good system. The biggest challenge we have faced was in 2022, when the parking in front of our office at 1008 Massachusetts Avenue was replaced with bike lanes, and we had to change the drop-off location to our smaller office in Porter Square. But ultimately it worked out well and enabled us to invite our Arlington team to join the drive. The additional support of the Arlington office doubled the amount of donations we were able to collect.
The funniest memory I can recall is picking up my husband's donation bags and inadvertently grabbing a bag that he meant to take to be dry cleaned. It had a couple of his favorite sweaters and a suit. He was not happy, but fortunately, the team at Second Chances went through all the donated bags until they found his clothes — I actually can't believe he got them back.
As an agent focused on philanthropic giving, how do you stay engaged throughout the year?
Time is always an issue as a busy agent, and I know my limits, so I try to do what I can when real estate is quieter. In October, I sell pies for Community Servings' Pie in the Sky fundraiser, and I tackle the Second Chances clothing drive in February before the spring market kicks in. The rest of the year, I just squeeze in what I can with community clean-ups, tree plantings and other local initiatives in my neighborhood.
Do you have any recommendations for those considering taking a deeper dive into philanthropy?
There are so many options out there, so it's pretty easy to find something to meet every kind of interest. And while some organizations might want more of a time commitment, most are flexible and happy to get whatever help you're able to give, be it an hour per week, an annual initiative, or a few hours here and there as time allows. And when time is short, financial donations are always appreciated.
To learn how you can contribute to Second Chances mission, visit www.secondchances.org.
Connect with Lara Gordon Caralis at 617.710.4632 or Lara.Gordon@GibsonSIR.com, or visit Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty’s office at 1008 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts.