“We have a very diverse community and we wanted to support inclusiveness,” says Gary Van Bakel, the office’s broker of record.
Realtors at Sutton Group – First Choice Realty in Stratford, Ont. helped contribute to a new rainbow crosswalk to celebrate their community’s diversity and resiliency. Soon after the first rainbow crosswalk was installed near Stratford’s City Hall in autumn 2021, it was vandalized. Removing the graffiti marred the surface, then winter salting and snowplowing caused further damage. Local businesses and individuals are fundraising to replace the crosswalk with a durable thermoplastic version.
“We have a very diverse community and we wanted to support inclusiveness,” says Gary Van Bakel, the office’s broker of record. “Each month, our Realtors contribute money to a fund, then each quarter, we select a charity to receive a donation.”
Van Bakel says they have been making quarterly donations for several years. The team frequently contributes to the United Way, an organization focused on poverty reduction and strengthening communities, and House of Blessing, a food bank that also provides steel-toed boots for workers, Christmas gifts for children and more.
Seeing the vandalism of the rainbow crosswalk near their office was concerning for the Sutton team. The police issued a public appeal for help identifying the perpetrators but decided not to share photos of the vandalism “in an effort not to glorify the damage and give credit to who caused it.” Instead, they encouraged people to share images of the crosswalk as it was meant to be.
Stratford-Perth Pride and Kelly Ballantyne of Sirkel Foods launched a fundraising campaign to raise $7,000 to replace the crosswalk. Sutton Group – First Choice Realty is a silver-level sponsor, joining other businesses and individuals who have donated to this project.