REALTORS Care® Spotlight: Brenda MacKenzie is Making Home Ownership a Reality for Families in Need

Brenda MacKenzie, a REALTOR® and salesperson, has been supporting the greater Halifax area for 35 years through fundraising, volunteerism, and daily acts of kindness. Caring for her community led MacKenzie to start two non-profits to support of locals in need.

“I’ve always been a step-up kind of person. I know that about myself,” says MacKenzie.

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In 2011, MacKenzie felt the need to be part of the solution to the growing houseless population in Halifax, so she founded her first nonprofit, A Home for Everyone. Within seven years Brenda had raised and distributed over $200,000 to local organizations.

In 2019, MacKenzie joined Engel & Völkers in Nova Scotia, and the brokerage rallied their charitable efforts around her non-profit. With REALTORS® in Engel & Völkers offices across Nova Scotia now supporting the cause, A Home for Everyone turned its mission to making home ownership viable for families in need who can manage a very small mortgage, but who through no fault of their own are unable to cover down payments or closing costs.

The first family to receive housing support were the Wiggins, a family of five in a precarious situation. Father, and charity worker, Alvero, had been forced to stop working due to kidney failure and, with little to no income, they had to move into a derelict rental housing unit which turned out to be infested with rats. With help from A Home for Everyone, the Wiggins were able to move into a townhome where Alvero could safely continue his medical regimen while waiting for a kidney donor to become available.

Having a proven model for success in supporting individual families, A Home for Everyone looked to expand and was granted funding from the Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS® to support their efforts. The team is now working with local community organizations in Halifax, South Shore, Yarmouth, and the western coast of Cape Breton as well as Antigonish County, to find homes and ensure that four more families have enough additional supports in place to ensure lasting generational change through home ownership.

“Brenda’s impact on this brokerage has been one of leadership by example,” reflects A Home for Everyone Board Member and Engel & Völkers Broker Donna Harding. “Every time Brenda encounters any REALTOR® inside our brokerage, she creates an impression that you can achieve anything you want in your life as long as you have passion for it. What most people don’t know about Brenda, is that she suffered with kidney disease for a very long time.”

As one of the 66,000 Canadians with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), Brenda knew what it was like to live with end-stage kidney failure and be in need of a kidney transplant to live. She saw firsthand the lack of resources and support for families like hers in the province – leading her to successfully advocate for changes to Nova Scotia’s laws on organ donation.

“Brenda is a big thinker,” says spouse Simone. “I think she’s always working towards the ‘big’ in helping as many people as possible.”

One day, MacKenzie decided to buy a cup of coffee for the stranger behind her in line and found herself face to face with a woman who was also struggling with PKD. What followed was the start of a lifelong friendship and a powerful purpose.

“When we used to sit together, we would talk about: why isn’t there something here for patients so that people can get together? How can we spread the word about what PKD is?” remembers Brenda.

Together with her knew friend and a third PKD patient, Brenda founded the Halifax Chapter for the PKD Foundation of Canada, where the trio now fundraise for research and advocacy, as well as running support groups and information sessions for individuals and families like theirs.

From helping families in need find homes, to supporting sick patients and their families, this Canadian REALTORS Care® Award 2023 nominee sees a bright future for her nonprofits, and the impact they will have on her community, for years to come.

“Giving back to the community is pretty much everything for me,” says Brenda. “It’s like my life breath.”

REALTORS Care® Spotlight shares stories of how featured nominees of the Canadian REALTORS Care® Award are working to make their communities a better place for all. Be on the lookout for more inspiring spotlights throughout the year.

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