Calgary realtors launch Women Helping Women initiative to assist those in need

Two veteran Calgary realtors with RE/MAX Real Estate (Central) have resurrected the Women Helping Women initiative in the brokerage’s office to give assistance to those in need in the city.

Syliva Solis-Marasco, a realtor for 25 years at Central, and Gemma Festa, a realtor for 21 years at Central, recently started up the group and are currently sponsoring two organizations in Calgary – the Making Changes Association and the Matteo Shafer Legacy Fund.

Making Changes empowers women to reach their potential by offering employment and life skills training, and work wardrobe consultations.

Matteo Shafer was nine years old when he passed away from brain cancer on July 17, 2016.

Sylvia Solis-Marasco (left) and Gemma Festa

“We are so fortunate and we’re all at the moment at a good time in our lives,” said Festa. “There’s a lot of successful people in this office. It’s not always about receiving. You have to give. You always feel better when you give as opposed to receiving all the time. And it’s nice. It’s a good feeling to know that you’re giving.”

“I just love being in organizations that are doing donations, that are doing hard work in helping other people,” said Solis-Marasco. “I grew up in Chile until I was about 10 years old and we were always instilled by my parents to do volunteer work to help the needy, to help everything.”

Solis-Marasco said Women Helping Women first came into existence about 15 years ago. A group of about 45 women out of the Central office led the initiative. At that time, it was sponsoring the Sheriff King Home, a short-stay crisis shelter for women and their children leaving domestic abuse and violence. The group was initially founded by Solis-Marasco and fellow Central realtor Heather Profeta.

“We sponsored that for many, many years. We did clothing. We did toys. We did different things. In 2009, I had an accident. I fell off a balcony in Bridgeland so I moved my office to home and the group kind of died,” said Solis-Marasco.

“But about a month ago Gemma and I were talking and thought we should get together and revamp the Women Helping Women group and start sponsoring. We thought it was a great idea.”

Calgary RE/MAX Real Estate (Central) women at launch of Women Helping Women

Many years ago Solis-Marasco used to worked for an accounting firm for 10 years dealing with realtors.

“A lot of the realtors had really rotten attitudes and I thought if they can make this kind of money with their attitude imagine what I could do,” she said of her choice to change careers.

Festa said there’s no specific reason why she became a realtor other than it’s in her blood.

“My mother was a real estate mogul. She liked to wheel and deal in real estate. If it were up to her, she would have owned half of Renfrew and Bridgeland. But my dad put the reins on her,” quipped Festa. “I think it’s in my blood. She really encouraged me to go into that business because she saw the potential in it.

“I love working with people. I just love the interactions. I love first-time buyers. I love the excitement of the deal. Closing the deal.”

For realtors, the love of interacting with people and helping them whether it’s buying or selling a house is an intrinsic part of the job. So is a commitment of giving back to the community.

Solis-Marasco said her goal is to have every woman in the Central office involved in the Women Helping Women group.

“Whether they’re assistants, secretaries, conveyancing, realtors. I think we’re all at a point in our lives that we should be giving back more. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t,” she said.