Program helps finance Homes for Heroes

Craig McKenzie Team gives back 30 percent of profit from sales By CASSANDRA CALDERON To Craig McKenzie, heroes come in different forms in every community and their work is always centered around sacrifice and generosity. When a firefighter, a teacher or a naval officer commits his or her life to serving others, McKenzie believes they don’t think in terms of costs. Rather, the former electronic technician for the Navy views the mindset of a hero as one that sets a goal to serve and aims to always fulfill that commitment. It is this mindset that McKenzie says he employs when striving to give back to these very heroes through the nationwide Homes For Heroes program. “In order to do this program, it’s about $100,000 that should come out of my office’s profit and go back to these heroes,” he said. “Instead of thinking that’s how much it costs me, I think of it as working hard to provide at least that amount.” According to McKenzie, Homes for Heroes was started after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 to provide rewards, rebates and discounts to five groups of individuals considered heroes — including military and veterans, law enforcement and firefighters — when they buy, sell or refinance a home. Teachers, as well as emergency medical professionals and healthcare workers can also access the program. “The program is a vehicle to give back to these individuals,” McKenzie said. A long-time real estate agent and now managing broker of his team, McKenzie began participating in Home for Heroes in January after starting the Craig McKenzie Team with Keller Williams Real Estate in Oak Harbor. “When they use the Craig McKenzie Team, I give back 30 percent of what I make on their sale,” he said. The majority of that donation goes directly to the heroes, McKenzie said, with only 5 percent going toward the program’s national headquarters to cover operation costs. According to McKenzie, the program works through a rebate or rewards process. When an individual within the five categories of heroes uses McKenzie’s office for buying or selling a house, they receive back part of the closing costs McKenzie charges. “It’s usually a couple thousand dollars and the way it works now is we basically refund those costs once a sale is closed,” he said. “We have fun with it and give them a giant check.” McKenzie’s own long history of heroes, including many friends and family who have served in the army, inspired him to give back. “My family has been in this community now for a long time,” McKenzie said. “This program is an opportunity to really connect with those in that community and give something in return for their sacrifices and work.” But alongside military personnel, he said the program is unique in that it identifies other positions in the community that should be considered heroes. Teachers and medical professionals are important to honor as well, he said. Additionally, Mckenzie said heroes can receive other savings through the program such as service discounts on home loan providers. To use the program, individuals in the five categories can either sign up online or McKenzie’s real estate team can provide step-by-step guidance during the process of selling or buying a home. Of the $100,000 goal, McKenzie’s team has already donated roughly $61,000 in the last five months, putting them in the top 5 program donors in the nation. Over the next 10 years, McKenzie hopes to give back $1 million through the Homes for Heroes program. “It’s about giving back and saying thank you to these folks for all they do to keep our community safe,” he said.