Giving Thanks & Giving Back


Thanksgiving is a time of year where people will traditionally pause and reflect and give thanks for their good fortune. For me this is relatively easy because I have so much to be thankful for. Many people are not as fortunate, some a victim of circumstance and others suffering the consequences of poor choices that they have made in their life. However there are many that have been blessed with good fortune yet do not seem to realize or appreciate it.

There seems to be an insatiable appetite for news about celebrities behaving badly and getting into trouble. The media is all too happy to feed this hunger. There are so many stories about spoiled brats whose main claim to fame is an accident of birth, their parents were rich and famous. Where is Paris partying this weekend? Is Lindsay back in rehab? Have any pop stars shaved their head, molested children or put their own children in danger? This is the most important news of the day? It’s absolutely sickening.

To me some of the most disappointing figures in the public eye have been professional athletes. For generations children and adults alike have looked up to these athletes as role models. There have always been some athletes that exhibited an unsavory side, but lately there seems to be an over abundance of prima donnas who seem to think that their superior skills on the playing field give them carte blanche off of it.

Baseball home run king Barry Bonds, long ago convicted in the court of public opinion, has been indicted on perjury charges. Baseball is in the midst of a steroid scandal involving an unknown number of stars that used the drugs to enhance their performance. Roger Goodell, the new commissioner of the NFL, is implementing a new personal conduct policy in response to several scandals that rocked the sport. Adam “Pacman” Jones was involved in many off-field incidents, which culminated in his guilty plea to charges stemming from a shooting incident at a Las Vegas strip club that left a man paralyzed. Tank Johnson, formerly of the Chicago Bears, was suspended for a weapons related incident. At times it seemed that so many members of the Cincinnati Bengals had been arrested that they would have a hard time fielding a team at all. Track star Marion Jones pled guilty to perjury charges, which effectively ended her career. Former heavy weight boxing champion, Mike Tyson, is in trouble again after being arrested on drug charges. After making more than $300 million in his career, Tyson is practically bankrupt. Let’s not forget OJ Simpson, he’s in trouble again. Although it may look like a rerun, he is facing a trial in Las Vegas on kidnapping, robbery and weapons charges. It never seems to end.

To be fair, there are many professional athletes who do outstanding things for the community. Many stars have charitable foundations and participate in many worthwhile endeavors. Hurricane Katrina brought out the best in many of them including basketball stars LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat. Baseball Hall of Famer, Roberto Clemente, was killed in a New years Eve plane crash back in 1972 while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Would we have heard of his humanitarian efforts if he hadn’t been killed? It just seems that all of the negative news prevails and that the media has a penchant for reporting all of these stories that the public can’t get enough of

Mo VaughnWhat has all of this got to do with real estate? I’m glad you asked! Last week I traveled to New York for a wedding. Before moving to Las Vegas I had lived in the region my entire life and I have maintained an interest in the area, especially in matters concerning real estate. While in NY, I heard about a real estate company called Omni New York, LLC ( ), that specializes in the acquisition and rehabilitation of inner-city apartment buildings. Being a rehabber I was naturally curious about what they did but the more I heard the more interested I was in their story.

New York City has an extreme shortage of rental housing, much of it rent controlled, and as such many building owners are not very motivated to keep the buildings in good condition. Many buildings that provide housing for low-income tenants are funded by the Federal Government through the Section 8 program and are required to maintain the buildings to a certain standard. However many of the building owners will take the subsidies without performing the necessary maintenance which cause the properties to deteriorate and ultimately results in the loss of Government assistance.

This is where Omni comes in, they will purchase these distressed properties with the intent of rehabbing them. The primary aim of the company is not to buy buildings and get the tenants out so they can repair them and make a fast profit. What they do is bring the units up to acceptable standards while allowing the tenants to remain in place. This helps to provide much needed housing for low-income citizens of New York City.

While this is a very worthwhile objective, what captured my attention was one of the primary individuals in the project. The company was co-founded by former baseball all-star Mo Vaughn. As one of the top sluggers of his era, Vaughn earned millions during his career. It would have been very easy for him to sit back and enjoy his time in retirement, instead he chose to involve himself in a project that gives back to one of the communities he played in.

Had Mo Vaughn been arrested for being involved in drugs or beating his wife or abusing children it would have been all over the news. Yet here he is doing something of great importance and nobody notices or even seems to care. How many other athletes, movie stars or other celebrities make contributions that go unnoticed? The answer is an awful lot, maybe it’s time we took notice of their efforts instead of gloating every time one of them gets into trouble.

Mo Vaughn understands the meaning of giving thanks for what he has and giving back to the community that helped him earn it. Do we? This Thanksgiving season let’s remember to give thanks for what we have and give back where we can.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.Winston Churchill (speaking of the Royal Air Force after the Battle of Britain)

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