2020 Impact Report
You make our impact possible
When I founded Zia Group in 2005, I envisioned forming a team that was exceptionally good at real estate. More than this, however, I wanted to build a team that, at its core and in its very DNA, desired to make a difference in our community and the world. Fifteen years later, that vision has become more of a reality than I could have imagined.
Zia Group has grown to a team of 21 people, all of us connected by our shared desire to leverage our skills and privilege to serve others in our community. Together, we have impacted the lives of hundreds of families as trusted and neutral real estate advisors. We have multiplied that impact through countless hours and charitable gifts donated to non-profit organizations in our community and abroad. Even in the difficult and unprecedented year of 2020, we have had the immense privilege to remain committed to our vision of real impact.
I am excited to share this year’s Impact Report which highlights the organizations and causes our team has partnered with in 2020 to make a difference in Santa Barbara and around the world. Throughout this report, you will hear directly from our team, sharing their stories, experiences, and heart for impact. More importantly, you will learn about the incredible organizations we have partnered with who are making a difference every single day in our community.
Of course, these last fifteen years of impact would not have been possible without you—our incredible clients, friends, and vendor-partners—who choose to partner with us in our efforts to make a real impact. Thank you, from all of us at the Zia Group, for joining us as we seek to give back to our community. We cannot wait to see what the next fifteen years hold!
Zia Group | eXp Realty
Zia Group Impact Model
How does Zia Group make an IMPACT? Through volunteering our time and donating 25% of our annual profits to organizations focused on supporting and equipping vulnerable women & children, especially through access to shelter, education, & health.
For the past ten years, I have helped build homes in the U.S. and Europe while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. My heart is full getting to know the homeowners. Seeing the joy on their faces and getting to build alongside them is truly a gift. This year, I committed to volunteering weekly with Meals on Wheels through their Friendly Neighbor Program. Prior to Covid-19, this meant visiting a home-bound neighbor once a week for about an hour. Now, we talk on the phone weekly or sometimes bi-weekly. I now consider my 93 year old senior Geraldine my dear friend. We have the best conversations and she is so funny, so we laugh a lot. What a great unexpected positive to add to my week!
Over the last ten years, my wife and I have had the opportunity to financially support a family in Africa. Every month I receive a letter from the family sharing what’s happening in their lives along with areas of need. It has been an incredible blessing to watch the boys grow up. I remember, when Joseph entered kindergarten, I prayed for his first day. As he grew, his prayer requests changed, but my wife and I have been there each step of that journey.
For me, working with a company driven to excellence in its industry is important, but not enough. The non-negotiable decision to value and genuinely serve all of the community sets the Zia Group apart. In my time working for the Zia Group thus far, I’ve been proud and thankful to engage in a company that actually follows through on the values it claims, a company that isn’t focused only on the accumulation of wealth or status. Most recently, the Zia Group demonstrated this continued dedication to impact by encouraging our team to ‘adopt’ a child for Christmas this year. It was powerful to have my workplace encourage me to use my resources to make Christmas a little brighter for a child in need by delivering gifts that they might not receive otherwise.
Update from Hope Refuge
Since opening, a lot has happened at Hope Refuge! Our team recently had an opportunity to hear from the Co-Directors of Hope Refuge, Sally and Chuck Cook, and wanted to share some of the impact that has resulted from the incredible gift in February.
“When the rest of the world was shutting down, we decided to open!” laughed Sally. Indeed, opening a specifically residential rehabilitation facility in the middle of a global pandemic posed quite a few unique challenges. For example, Sally and Chuck explained, “Zoom therapy and Zoom group therapy doesn’t really work for teenagers.” Not to mention, many staff members and volunteers have had to come and go from the facility safely. And yet, none of the unexpected—or even expected—challenges have deterred the morale and success of Hope Refuge. At every turn, Chuck and Sally shared, the Directors and other staff have come up with creative, effective, and safe ways for the girls to receive the mental health and emotional support they need to heal and look toward their new future.
As of November 2020, four girls have graduated from Hope Refuge’s recovery program, with many more residents making progress daily. The directors and staff have seen incredible transformation in these girls, as they take the opportunity to “focus on themselves” for a change, Chuck shared. While the work itself is challenging—for both the staff and the girls—the day to day relationship building, learning, and growing leads to restored hope. And at the end of each day, that is what Hope Refuge is all about.
This past year, local non-profit Hope Refuge opened its doors to its first group of child survivors of sexual exploitation.
The new residents, girls between the ages of twelve to seventeen, participate in Hope Refuge’s licensed Short Term Residential Therapeutic Program. For six or more months, they have resources and space to heal from the trauma they’ve experienced—all while tucked away on 214 acres in the beautiful rolling hills of Santa Barbara! One of the largest facilities of its kind, Hope Refuge offers this program for up to 24 child survivors of sex trafficking, a much needed resource in cities across the United States. While there are likely 300,000+ trafficked children in the United States, there are not many facilities dedicated to the needs of children who have been sexually exploited (in 2013, one study found there were only 511 beds nationally).
Human trafficking, and especially the sexual exploitation of children, has been an issue close to the hearts of many Zia Group team members for a long time. “As soon as I heard that this was a Santa Barbara problem, my heart and hands had to get involved. This has been a focus of my charitable giving for years internationally—how could I not have known in my twenty years in this city that it was happening in my own community?” says Realtor Partner Kimberly Rockwell. And so, the Zia Group has gotten involved! For the past two years, we have had the opportunity to work alongside this organization as they approached their goal of opening a residential program.
In February this year, we had a special and unique opportunity to bring our friends, families, clients, and vendor-partners together to help raise the funds needed to finally open the residential program. The Zia Group pledged to match $50,000 in donations from all of you, resulting in a total $100,000 gift to Hope Refuge. As a part of the fundraiser, we also collaborated with other impact-minded businesses in our community to host our first ever Impact Event. Together, we created an opportunity for the team at Hope Refuge to share their vision, plans, and impact with others in our community who might get involved in their work.
Thank you, from all of us at the Zia Group, to everyone who contributed to the success of our Impact Event, and to the success of the fundraiser. You made it possible for the team at Hope Refuge to welcome its first residents, and help them transition from slavery to freedom.
As soon as I heard about Hope Refuge, and the terrible injustice it strives to fight, I was ready to join the solution. Knowing that this is a Santa Barbara problem, my heart and hands had to get involved. How could I not have known in my 20+ years in the city that this was happening in my own community?
Being able to tour the retreat center, to get to know the charity founders, and to pledge $50,000~ and to raise $100,000+ ~ with Zia Group has been a true honor. With tears in my eyes and light in my soul, I know that I am exactly where I am meant to be. Working hard in order to support those most in need in our community and beyond is what MY life is all about.
I am forever honored to be a part of Zia Group and their deep calling for community impact. I cannot wait to do MORE for Hope Refuge and the girls they serve. I look forward to supporting this local organization and so many more, both financially and with hands-on work, for many many years to come.
$0+Raised For Hope Refuge
Highlights from our Hope Refuge fundraiser
Thank you, from all of us at the Zia Group, to everyone who donated or contributed to the success of our Impact Event. You made it possible for the team at Hope Refuge to welcome its first residents, and help them transition from slavery to freedom. Human trafficking is a global issue—meaning it happens even here in our own communities. And, because it is happening here in our own communities, incredible local organizations are actively fighting, along with County and City efforts, to address the causes and effects of human trafficking. Hope Refuge is one such organization.
Being a part of a team that helped transform the incredible vision of one couple into reality inspired me. We had the opportunity to visit Hope Refuge last year before it opened. At the time the conversation was: “we hope to do this, or we hope to open soon,” not really knowing when that might be. Now, they are actually open and helping the first group of girls! Knowing I was a part of something so much larger than myself makes me excited for the year to come, to see what myself and the team can do to give back to our community. The fact that my clients participate in that process by just choosing me and the team to represent them in their real estate transactions—I love that as well.
The Zia Group Impact Open House was my first impact event with the Zia Group, and seeing the way the community came together to help Hope Refuge really warmed my heart. I got to meet so many people that night who all had the same kindness in their heart no matter where they were from. They just wanted to give back and help any way they could. I loved how there were a ton of local vendors there that night who helped create the whole experience and contribute to the fundraiser. From the incredible charcuterie by Perfect Platters Santa Barbara, to the local musician, Brandon, who crushed it with amazing live music, to the delicious pizza from Lucca Truck—everyone there cared about helping Hope Refuge raise the money needed to open and and begin providing a place for these young women to recover and heal.
Impact is at the core of everything we do, but it isn’t just about our philanthropic commitments. We also have the honor of entering into our clients’ lives often during the highest emotional highs (newly married, expanding family, or new job opportunity) or lowest emotional lows (death in the family, divorce, job loss, or health issues). This year, Covid-19 added an entirely new dimension to this aspect of our work. After being declared essential workers, we were able to keep doing our work helping our clients buy and sell homes—though with masks and cleaning supplies kept in the trunks of our cars and a whole lot more time spent on Zoom! More than following the added safety precautions, however, our team supported our clients, friends, and family through the economic uncertainty that accompanied the pandemic. We made it our primary goal to offer our clients personalized counsel, based on our in-depth research on the market as it changed in surprising ways. Our team poured time, energy, and money into making sure our clients were well taken care of during the pandemic—even in ways completely unrelated to our real estate knowledge! I am incredibly proud of the way our team’s heart for impact spilled over into our dedication to our clients’ best interests throughout these trying times.
Delivering groceries during the early lockdown of the pandemic was heartbreaking and fulfilling. With so much fear and uncertainty early on when no one knew how long things would last and so many were afraid to go out to stores, especially the families who were caring for older parents and grandparents, it was a welcome distraction to go out on little missions to pick up essentials. Locals who suddenly found themselves out of work were excited to have the help purchasing basics like milk, eggs and cheese. It felt like the least we could do, and I was honored to be a part of a team that was in a position to help provide aid with genuine enthusiasm.
When I helped pass out lunches for elementary school kids during the beginning of COVID-19, I was reminded of my own childhood. In the faces of these children and families, I saw my own family, when we were reliant on the school breakfast & lunch programs before having dinner from the Food Bank each night. If Covid-19 had hit when I was in school, my family would have been devastated because we did not have money to feed my siblings and I every day. It meant so much to me to hand these lunches out to families and further cemented my belief that I am here now to lift up those less fortunate than me. We are changing lives, giving children our shoulders to stand on, so they can realize their full potential.
Zia Group Supports Partners in Education
Realtor Partner Rafael Mora has been volunteering for two years with Partners in Education, an organization in Santa Barbara that supports marginalized high school students as they look forward to what comes next. Students participate in a six-week program where they benefit from career coaching, resume writing advice, and real interview experience from volunteer mentors like Rafael. The program culminates in a paid summer internship with partnering businesses in Santa Barbara.
Up until March of 2020, Rafael would meet with two to three students once a week for the six week program. Now, because of Covid-19, Partners in Education has had to come up with new solutions to reaching students. Incredibly, they’ve been able to expand their reach after transitioning the mentorship program to video calls. Now, they are able to invite students outside of Santa Barbara county to participate. Each week, students in the program will watch a 45 minute pre-recorded video of a volunteer discussing subjects like networking or financial literacy.
After this, they join a live video call with their mentor to discuss and develop the new skills they are learning. Rafael is particularly passionate about building financial literacy among students, which is exactly what keeps him coming back week after week to meet with students.
Partners in Education began in 1977, becoming a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in 2000. They work directly with the public education system, businesses, and other non-profit organizations serving Santa Barbara youth to expand educational opportunities to include necessary, real-life skills. Partners in Education runs several other successful programs, including one that trains and places volunteers from the community in schools. Another program became increasingly relevant with the onset of virtual learning during Covid-19: Computers for Families provides computers, internet access, and technological support to low-income families so that students have the tools they need to be academically successful in an increasingly computer-dependent learning environment.
I’ve been involved with Partners in Education for a few years now, and I think the work they are doing is so important for kids to think about their future beyond their high school classrooms. It’s really important for kids to learn about wealth building and to have opportunities to become more financially literate, especially when they aren’t necessarily going to learn these things in math class or at home. These students gain real life experience in interviews, internships, and mentoring opportunities that they probably wouldn’t find otherwise. It can be life changing for them.
Zia Group Supports Heal The Ocean
I really care about this issue, and so I started researching who was doing something about it, and Heal the Ocean stood out to me. Our fundraiser event with Topa Topa was a great success. Once we are able to return to physical gatherings, I plan to host more events to raise awareness around this important cause.
Last year Realtor Partner Jon Gilkeson reached out to local environmental organization, Heal the Ocean. As a regular participant in various ocean and beach sports, Jon became more familiar with the unique ecological system and marine life in the Channel. He began to feel compelled to support an organization working to conserve the oceans, beaches, and marine life in the 805. “I really cared about this issue, and so I started researching who was doing something about it. Heal the Ocean stood out to me, so I decided to go meet them.”
Hillary Hauser and Jeff Young founded Heal the Ocean in 1998 after beaches closed due to unsafe bacteria levels. Over the next few years, Heal the Ocean successfully combated pollution near Rincon caused by septic tanks, culminating in their full removal from seven miles of Santa Barbara’s coastline. Heal the Ocean combines advocacy with research-based action, pursuing any and every avenue toward conserving the Channel.
In recent years, Heal the Ocean catalyzed efforts to cap the Becker Well in Summerland (completed in 2018). They also run a styrofoam recycling program alongside Marbourg, have partnered with Home for Good to tackle Summerland homelessness, and now provide doggie bags for beaches & parks from Rincon to Goleta (after the County stopped providing this service in 2010 due to budget cuts).
Jon immediately got to work after his meeting with Heal the Ocean. Last year, he partnered with Topa Topa Brewing Company, a local business already partnering with Heal the Ocean, to host a fundraising event. A portion of all sales at their Happy Hour event were donated to Heal the Ocean. They intended to continue hosting these fundraisers, but due to Covid-19, they have held off and look forward to the next Happy Hour they are able to host on behalf of Heal the Ocean. In the meantime, Jon continues to advocate for ocean conservation in the Santa Barbara area— and we know his adorable puppy, Jackson, much appreciates the doggie bag program!
Zia Group Supports My Amarie Heart
Part VI: Making impact a daily practice
Earlier this year we had the joy of spending the day gleaning avocados for the Food Bank. While most of our team was available to help that day, my nine year old son, Jadon, also asked to come along. The moment ended up being powerful watching not only our team link arms to help those in need, but watching the generational impact of my young son choosing to spend his afternoon to put food on the table for those less fortunate. The day ended up being a fun, friendly competition as my son challenged our team members to glean more quickly—it became a time full of laughter and memories. At the end of the day we were physically tired and dirty but our hearts were full and we felt more connected with each other and with our community.
Impact is more than helping other organizations, it's often within the context of serving our clients. It was obvious from day one that the sale of his mother’s home was an emotional event. Our client had recently lost his mother and was selling her home so he and his wife Lisa could move to Utah. They were so pleased with the outcome—selling the house for well over the asking price, with a smooth and easy transition was both overwhelming emotionally, and also a hugely welcome surprise. Not only was having been a part of this life-changing event special to me because I had also recently lost my mother, but I was privileged to be a source for happiness and delight for this wonderful couple.
This summer, I joined other team members from the Zia Group in Carpinteria at Canalino Elementary School to help prepare and distribute lunches to families. I love being a part of a team that takes time out of our busy schedules to help out our community even in a small way.
Giving back to my community has always been important to me, so I especially love that our team regularly comes together to make an impact. I have a special place in my heart for the Foodbank as my extended family has supported it for years. Their "Empty Bowls" fundraiser is such an example of the entire community coming together. This organization provides food to 300 agencies in SB County. They serve 1 in 4 residents in our county and 41% are kids. As a mom and grandma, that is a big deal to me. We need to feed our future. I’ve enjoyed gleaning avocados for the Foodbank and helping with "Lunch Bunch" and making financial contributions. It’s a truly beautiful thing to be a part of!
It brings so much more meaning to life and work when I’m not just living for me, or even my family. I realized this shortly after my first meeting with Father Boyle in East LA, back when I was a student at Pepperdine University. I went to visit him and did a sociology report on his neighborhood—what the LA Times had declared as the roughest neighborhood in LA. He told me he worked with the roughest gangs, and that most of them were just kids that wanted jobs, family, and stability, and the gangs gave them what they were looking for. He found a way to give it to them through work, friendship, and acceptance. What he does now is called Homeboy and Homegirl Industries. Today, I choose to be a part of the Zia Group because of what I realized back then: that there is such a huge need in the world, and when I get involved in helping, it brings so much joy and meaning to my life that even the beach and comforts of Malibu could not.