Saturday, April 12, 2003
By PAUL HERRERA, Business Editor, Naples Daily News

Sandra Brim, executive director of Partners for Breast Cancer Care, has been rooting for the real estate market this year.

The Lee County charity is one of four to split a $101,000 donation from four Arthur Rutenberg home-building franchises in Southwest Florida. During the past five months the companies have set aside $1,000 from the sale of each home priced below $1 million and $2,000 for homes above that line for a program called Building Better Lives.

A.R.B.C Corporation is one of four Arthur Rutenberg franchises combining to donate $101,000 to local charities as part of the Building Better Lives project. Gary Coronado/Staff”Our total budget is just over $100,000,” Brim said. “So this is a huge help to us.”

The nonprofit, founded as part of a breast cancer education project by the University of Vermont in 1991, provides services and educational programs in low-income areas throughout the county. The university project, and the grant money supporting it, ended in 1995, but Brim has continued the effort on a tiny budget built from a handful of regular fund-raisers.

Brim’s effort caught the attention of Bobby Lyons, president of Lyons Housing and ARH Marketing Group, who designated Partners for Breast Cancer Care as the franchise’s charity for a share of the total.

Money from the Building Better Lives program, which has totaled more than $75,000 over three years, has helped the nonprofit double its workload. Now Brim said she hopes to get word of the group’s services to more of the community.

Building Better Lives began in 2001 with the Arthur Rutenberg franchises setting aside $1,000 from each home sold to build the pot. In its inaugural year, the companies handed over $96,000 to four charities. Each franchise selects a beneficiary of one-quarter of the total. Last year, the franchises collected $108,000.

This year, despite a much-slowed local economy that has permeated home sales, the franchises maintained nearly the same level.

“It was a struggle, but we were fortunate to be able to generate that amount for the charities,” said John Globetti, president of A.R.B.C. Corporation, one of the four participating franchises.

A.R.B.C.’s share of the money will go to the Immokalee Child Care Center. The center provides day-care services and early education for children of the working poor in the Collier County community.

“They really came through for us,” said Valarie Bostic, executive director of the Immokalee Child Care Center. “We use a lot of our money for a tuition assistance program so the parents can afford the cost of child care.”

Three of the four charities chosen focus on children. Keystone Custom Homes, a former franchise that was sold in January, chose The Ricky King Children’s Fund. The fund helps critically ill children afford services and medical help their families can’t afford and insurance won’t cover.

“It could be something as simple as a generator for a child who is on a breathing apparatus,” said Dawn Montecalvo, the fund’s executive director in Southwest Florida. “In the summer with the power outages, they need to have a power source that will keep working. Those are all things not covered by insurance or, if they’re low income, it’s a luxury.”

Toussel Homes, a builder franchise in Naples, chose Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida. The national nonprofit grants wishes for kids with life-threatening illness.

The program ran from November through the end of March, giving the franchises the prime months of the winter season to raise the money. The companies build homes in The Brooks, Palmira, Olde Cypress, Shadow Wood Preserve, TwinEagles, Rookery Pointe and various other communities in Southwest Florida.

Contact Business Editor Paul Herrera at 213-6037 or [email protected]