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Cristina Talotta heads eighth consecutive Crawl for Cancer

In 2008,  RE/MAX Select Realty’s Cristina Talotta participated in a fundraising event that changed her life. As the daughter of two cancer survivors, Talotta placed heavy emphasis on supporting cancer research, thus when Pittsburgh hosted its first Crawl for Cancer, the real estate veteran joined in the effort. A year later, she took charge and never looked back. On Saturday, Sept. 17, Talotta will be spearheading the ninth annual Pittsburgh Crawl for Cancer from 1-7 p.m. in the North Shore — her eight consecutive stint as the event chair.

Cristina Talotta (left) poses with her mother (right) during Pittsburgh Crawl for Cancer.

“It’s part of a national organization,” Talotta said. “There are crawls in 30 cities throughout the county, and I plan Pittsburgh’s.

“I think everybody has some relationship to cancer, some tie to it. Both of my parents had cancer; my mom has had cancer three times. If you don’t know somebody [that’s been affected by cancer], then you’re in the minority. ”

Approximately 650 people plan to participate in the five-bar excursion, which includes stops at Tilted Kilt, Bar Louie, Mullen’s, and Local Brewhouse. Each group receives four pitchers of beer at each bar, and those who bring at least 10 canned goods receive $10 or more in Uber credits or taxi vouchers. At the final bar, McFadden’s Saloon, the band Walk of Shame will perform as Talotta hosts a charity raffle  sponsored by several companies — including RE/MAX Select Realty — to increase overall donations, which have surpassed over $40,000 in just 9 years. This year, proceeds will be distributed to Cancer Caring Center in Bloomfield, and, for the first time, Glimmer of Hope in Wexford.

Following the death of her close friend last October, Talotta’s sister-in-law, Hayley Talotta, started volunteering at Glimmer of Hope. She explained that Crawl for Cancer “really took off” once Cristina “grabbed a hold of it,” and that proceeds from the event stands to positively impact a multitude of women suffering from breast cancer.

“It’s amazing what she’s doing,” Hayley Talotta said. “Instead of just talking about it, she goes out and does it. She invests her heart and soul into Crawl for Cancer, and it should be an inspiration to other people. The proceeds from Crawl to Cancer will go toward investing in different equipment and activities at Glimmer of Hope. Cristina is making such a difference.”

Cristina donated her time to several other cancer-related benefits over the years. Furthermore, she conducts an annual holiday toy drive. This past year, she received a Jefferson Award for her philanthropic work throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area. As for why she continues to maintain her position with Crawl for Cancer, even as a busy Realtor®, Talotta discussed that it’s the people and their stories that keep her coming back.

“I feel like everybody has a story,” Talotta said. “Something we started doing is the ‘In Memory of” and the “In Celebration of” signs that people put on the backs of their shirts. Once people get a couple of drinks in them, they start to open up a bit more and add names to those signs. You see how many people have been affected by it.”

All of the teams filled the open slots in early July, but there is still plenty of opportunity to be a part of this year’s Crawl for Cancer. Anyone interested in participating can join the teams and organization committee at McFadden’s at 6 p.m. for the after party. Talotta encourages attendance, even from the busiest of people, such as herself.

“Overall, especially in my field, you don’t ever get time to set aside for people,” Talotta said. “People come from other states and parts of Pennsylvania, and it doesn’t matter which generation you’re part of. My parents do it every year; their friends come from out of town to be a part of it. It’s just something to look forward to.”

For more information, visit CrawlforCancer.org.

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Pittsburgh real estate agent doubles as mover for military widow

Linda Neely and Rob Dutcher take a break from moving Linda to her knew home on Aug. 26.

A Beaver County woman received a generous housewarming gift last Friday when her real estate agent rented a truck and moved all of her belongings to her new home. Linda Neely, of New Brighton, worked with Aliquippa-native Rob Dutcher, of RE/MAX Select Realty, to close on her house on Aug. 26. After mentioning that her moving resources were limited, Neely was shocked when Dutcher offered to move everything for her.

“Before I knew it, I was signing papers,” Neely said. “I asked [Rob], ‘how am I going to move all of my stuff?’ He told me not to worry about that. He had it covered. I didn’t realize he was actually going to move everything for me. I was like, ‘is this guy for real?’”

Neely, a military widow, reached out to Dutcher in April when she saw that her dream home had hit the open market. After the 120-plus day closing process, Neely became a homeowner for the first time. Though, after two back surgeries resulting from a 1997 car accident, her ability to climb steps and lift heavy objects diminished. Furthermore, in November 2012, Neely’s husband of 22 years, Vietnam veteran Jon Neely, passed away from Agent-Orange-related cancer after a failed stem cell transplant. With no one else available to assist in the move, Dutcher took charge, and recruited other volunteers with his personal Facebook page.

“I put a post on Facebook, got some really generous guys to respond, then we went ahead and did it,” Dutcher explained. “As it turns out, my buddy’s father and her husband were in Vietnam together, and they both died as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. I talked to [my buddy] quite a bit, and he helped out with the truck and everything. She’s an older woman, she needed some help, and it didn’t seem like she had any support anywhere. I figured ‘why not, I’m fully capable.’”

A fresh start in the perfect home

When Neely’s husband passed away, she found herself in a strange and unfamiliar situation. Save her granddaughter staying over a few times a week, she was alone for the first time in over two decades in a home she deemed too difficult to navigate, given her medical history. By coincidence, a house that she loved and spent time in several years prior went up for sale, and Dutcher’s name was on the sign.

“It was tough,” Neely said. “I couldn’t do the steps anymore. My son said, ‘that house is too big for you, why don’t you sell it and move.’ So, one day, [I] saw the [new] house. My neighbor came down and we looked at it. I’d been in the house ’cause I knew the guy that owned it before…I grew up with him. And, he’d taken me through the house before he sold it to the previous owner, and I said, ‘oh, I would love this room for my granddaughter.’”

When Dutcher met with her for the first time, he noticed something special during their tour of the home. Though Neely and the house were a perfect match, the buying process proved more difficult than she and Dutcher had imagined.

“She came to this house (and) she fell in love with it,” Dutcher said. “She knew the person who lived here prior to the owner right now. So, there was a background there. I really got to know her in the process…it took about 120-some days to close. There was a big problem with the appraisal [and] they had to start the whole mortgage over. So, I got to know Linda very well. She just needed some support.”

After four-plus months of back-and-forth with the lender, Dutcher helped Neely get the keys to her new home.

“On Aug. 13, they called and said, ‘you got it!’” Neely added. “[Rob] is just a great guy. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay him. It’s great.”

As to why Dutcher put so much effort into Neely’s move, he added:

“It’s nice to give something back.”

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RE/MAX Select Realty joins Center for Hope in battle against hunger!

Several employees and associates from RE/MAX Select Realty’s Center Township office gathered at Center for Hope in Ambridge last Thursday to support community members in need. Nearly 20 people arrived at the center, located at 740 Park Rd., at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 5, and spent the next two-plus hours preparing and serving nutritious meals from Shop-and-Save to approximately 150 food insecure people.

Center for Hope, a multi-denominational faith-based charity, provides services for the low-income population of Ambridge. With a multitude of programs, ranging from pre-employment classes for adults to Home Store — which helps families stock or replace basic household items — the center’s mission is to help its “neighbors in need to break the bonds of poverty and lead independent lives.” One initiative in particular, the Young Entrepreneur Program, caught the attention of Sales Director Joann Gennaro.  She volunteered at a Shark Tank event in October 2015, and it fueled her altruistic passion to provide support within the community.

“There was a  program called ‘Barracuda Tank,’ which is similar to ‘Shark Tank,’” Gennaro explained. “Children were presenting their business ideas, then collecting money from the investors. They’d take that money, open bank accounts, and develop business plans. I thought, ‘this is great,’ because it’s important for these kids to have good business sense, and to know how to open bank accounts. One girl, in particular, was saving her money to buy her mom a new car. The car that her family used had to be over 30-years-old. That’s where it started for me. I wanted to know how [RSR] could help.”

Coincidentally, Gennaro’s co-worker and fellow real estate associate Kim Hostetter attended the same event. After learning that Hostetter’s mother, Sue Otto, served as the director of Center for Hope, Gennaro found a way for RSR to get involved.

“[Joann] had mentioned that she wanted to see what we could do to help,” Hostetter said. “So, I talked to my mom, and she said to see if [RE/MAX Select Realty] would do a community dinner. Joann said that was great, and the owners were generous enough to fund it. These people don’t get nice meals very often, so it’s really a treat for them.”

Otto, who started working with Center for Hope in 2007, was given an ultimatum – build the center up, or close it down. By 2010, the organization had provided services over 26,000 times by way of food and clothing distribution. While she dedicates her focus to philanthropy on a full-time basis, Otto is still amazed at the support the center receives from outside companies in other industries, such as RE/MAX Select Realty, that volunteer their resources to support the center’s mission.

“It’s interesting to watch,” Otto said. “Sometimes a community like this can feel forgotten, so when a successful company like RE/MAX [Select Realty] shows that it cares, it’s really special. It goes beyond just giving food, and that’s evident when you [hear from] the children. After the meal, one child walked up said, ‘you could be home with your families right now, but you chose to be with us.’ They are so appreciative. What better feeling is there than to help feed someone?”

 

According to Gennaro, this event was the first of many to come for RE/MAX Select Realty, in regards to volunteer efforts. Her goal is to host monthly volunteer events, and include each of the other seven offices, as well as RSR’s ancillary closing company, KEYMAX Settlement Services.

“This is where I want this company to go,” Gennaro added. “We are so fortunate to work in a business like this…one that allows us to give back.”

In addition to its associates’ and offices’ individual endeavors, RSR, as a company, collects donations from each real estate transaction and hosts annual golf outings that support local charities in the greater Pittsburgh area. To learn more about Center for Hope, or to get involved, visit its website at TheCenterForHope.com.