Each year, Inman recognizes innovation in the real estate industry with its Inman Innovation Awards. This year is different.

In advance of Connect Now, our first major digital event which is taking place next week, we asked Inman readers and all members of our 18,000-person Coast to Coast community on Facebook, to nominate special acts of service and leadership by industry figures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We had hoped to be inspired, and we were not let down. But, we were also overwhelmed, with hundreds of nominations pouring in from all corners of the real estate world.

The truth of the matter is that, as an industry, we have reacted brilliantly and valiantly to the pandemic, with acts of kindness and support spanning the spectrum and the country. We could be honoring many more people and organizations here, all are deserving. In the spirit of inspiration, we’re choosing to honor these 10 agents and brokerages as going above and beyond even the above and beyond.

These are the 2020 Inman Innovators honorees. Our thanks and commendation to them all — and to all of you.

Kristina McCann

Chroma Realty, San Francisco Bay Area, California  

Stuck at home like the rest of us during shelter in place, Kristina McCann came up with the idea of “flocking” the yards of homes with plastic flamingos to surprise a child on their birthday.

Since then, she’s flocked close to 100 homes, with McCann and her 5-year-old daughter going out under the cover of darkness to spread some surprise joy the next morning. The idea earned coverage on NBC Bay Area, which called McCann a “birthday fairy,” and has inspired other agents across the country to do the same in their communities.

Catherine Donaldson

Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty, South Carolina

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Catherine Donaldson learned that many students in the area around her home in South Carolina did not have the technical tools to connect to their school. Donaldson started a campaign called #KindlesForKids and has already delivered over 800 Kindles for local children.

Vickie Lobo

Einstein Realty, Rancho Cucamonga, California

Vickie Lobo oversees a non-profit charity called Knock Knock Angels that helps families in crisis, but in the pandemic, they’ve had to change how they help people in need.

“The homeless can’t really be safe. The children sleeping on the streets with their parents can’t be safe,” Lobo said. “They can’t wash their hands regularly or wear masks, social distancing is non-existent. We decided to do something a little different during this time.”

The non-profit helped single-parent families, homeless veterans and the elderly come in off the streets to shelters, connected them with aid to get available apartments and arranged to have furniture donated to give them a fresh start.

Priyanka Johri

Woodlands Eco Realty, Woodlands, Texas

Priyanka Johri wanted to support local businesses and thank her community’s medical professionals, so she undertook a 30 Days of Giving Campaign for the month of April, donating meals and masks. But above and beyond that, Johri self-quarantined with elderly residents at an assisted-living home to make sure they are well taken-care of in these scary times.

She hasn’t been home for over seven weeks now, but has gotten Realtor friends from across the country to send the residents cards, crafts and gifts as well as arrange for musicians to come entertain the residents from outside their windows.

Paige Schulte

Windermere Professional Partners, Gig Harbor, Washington 

Paige Schulte partnered with local photographer Stacey Tull to help raise donations for Food Backpacks 4 Kids, which provides food to families in need for weekends after seeing a spike in demand following school closures. Tull took photographs of quarantined families on the doorsteps all around Gig Harbor, Washington, and in return, the families agreed to donate food or funds to Food Backpacks 4 Kids, raising thousands of dollars.

Melody Smith

Melody & Associates, Orange County, California 

Lots of people have made donations during the pandemic, but few with the breadth or flair of Melody Smith. She’s “egged and TP’d” houses to provide humor while also dropping off hard-to-find grocery items and toilet paper; provided champagne and chocolate for mothers on Mother’s Day with a virtual toast; and gifted candy-filled Easter eggs to kids who participated in an Easter-egg coloring contest. She also donated pizzas to first responders and collected and donated supplies to the Saddle Memorial Hospital.

Neil Walter

ERA Brokers Consolidated, St. George, Utah

Neil Walter worked behind the scenes to transport 15,000 potted flowers from Milgro Nursery in Utah to New York City, where they were distributed to several NYC hospitals for frontline workers.

Liz Brent

Go Brent Real Estate, Metro D.C. area 

In the spring of 2017, Brent founded Silver Spring Cares, a 501(c)(3) foundation dedicated to harnessing the generosity of local residents and directing that generosity to places where it was acutely needed.

In mid-March, as shut-down orders were being put into place, Brent reached out to local restaurants to see what making a meal for a vulnerable family might cost. Restaurants received money to make meals, which helped them stay afloat, and the meals were delivered to families in need.

To date, Silver Spring Cares has raised $84,000 from 800 donors, partnered with 10 local restaurants and served over 7,200 meals. The work has been featured on CNN and Inman, as well as local news outlets.

Nicole Lopez Cummins

True Houston Real Estate, Houston, Texas 

After the closure of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo due to COVID-19, Nicole Lopez Cummins and a friend created the Facebook group Texas Festival Vendors to help the vendors facing economic devastation in the wake of the closure.

To date, that group has done nearly $1.5 million in sales for small businesses, many in Texas. The group fostered a community of small businesses who now know each other by name and consider each other allies instead of competition.

Red Oak Realty

Oakland, California

To help with personal hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic, Red Oak Realty partnered with the charity Lava Mae to set up 31 portable hand-washing stations across San Francisco and Los Angeles for the homeless. The brokerage partnered with Lava Mae through its Red Oak Opportunity Foundation, donating nearly $15,000 to the cause.

After 25 years, Inman Connect is coming to you. We’re transcending our legendary events in a live digital event, Inman Connect Now. Get ready for the top industry leaders plotting the path forward, new business ideas and opportunities, networking like you’ve never imagined it, and tons of exciting new magic, all straight to you. It’s all part of an epic new Inman experience, Connect Now, June 2-4, 2020. Click here to save your seat.

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