Freeport, Pennsylvania — Meander through the small, rural town of Freeport and you’ll only see one stoplight, surrounded by the bank, coffee shop, post office, and real estate brokerage of an old downtown. Look beyond those buildings and more than 1,600 people are going about their day. Mostly blue collar workers, families and the retired call this one-stoplight town home.
“It’s your quintessential small town feel,” said Heidi Powell, who is the broker/owner of that little real estate office – NextHome Dynamic.
There is something about Freeport that makes it more than just a place where folks lay their head down after a long day.
“Don’t we all want to make the world a better place?” Heidi said. “If the community can come together to make the community better, then you have found the perfect formula.”
It started years ago when a few real estate agents quietly gave a small portion of their commissions back to community members which turned into the Dynamic Community Foundation 501(c)3.
“For a while we would just put away a little of our commissions and then at the end of the year chose someone in Freeport who we could help,” Heidi said. “This community lets me list and sell their houses, that is something that needs thanks. This is our small way of saying thank you for letting us serve them here.”
One year, the foundation helped a little girl battling cancer. Then, a local veteran needed a new roof. A family’s home burned, another family lost work due to a motorcycle accident. They all quietly got a piece of every real estate agent’s commission.
In 2020, as COVID-19 ripped across the world, Jackie Gaughan, owner of food truck “Just a Girl with Mobile Deli,” got involved.
“She came to me and asked for a space to hand out sandwiches to those who might be struggling to get food because of the pandemic,” Heidi recalled. “Our office used to be a bank, so it had one of those drive through windows. It was perfect.”
What started as 65 PB&J or egg salad sandwiches quickly grew to a full menu with several different home cooked options. “Jackie was quite the machine!” She created the menu every day and cooked everything from scratch. The group grew to about 30 volunteers. They even had local families baking and delivering fresh home made cookies daily to be distributed with lunch.
“By the end of the 13 weeks we had given out just under 25,000 free meals that were all funded by the community,” Heidi said. “When word got out about what we were doing, people started sending us jars of peanut butter, even $100 here or even $1,000 donations. Those who could give gave big, and those who needed came and got. You have to realize that this is a very small community and to have that level of funds coming to us in that short amount of time, it was remarkable to watch it happen. It was this amazing juxtaposition of all these different people and their diverse needs and everyone coming together in this spirit of community.”
All the while, NextHome Dynamic couldn’t sell one single home. The pandemic had ground home buying, and all the businesses that helped it happen, to a halt. But to Heidi and Jackie, there was a lot more to community building than getting people into houses and selling them products.
“This pandemic really brought out so much of the wholeness of the community,” Heidi said. “People got more than free food – they got a recognition that we are all in this together.”
“It is the people in this community that makes it what it is,” Heidi added. “That’s what makes this story powerful.”