Opening Doors and Unlocking Potential.
The purchase of a home is the biggest investment a person will make in his or her lifetime. Realtors Image Hasselbeck and Star Rooney believe that the biggest investment they can make is in service to their community. As co-owners of Great Oaks Realty, the women have created a faith-based business that aligns their professional capabilities with their desire to serve. Their nonprofit outreach effort, Token of Love Foundation, helps women throughout the greater New Orleans area who have suffered abuse, addiction, poverty and trafficking.
Lifelong friends, the duo first worked together about ten years ago. After following different career paths—Image specializing in real estate foreclosures and Star developing entrepreneurial ventures—they teamed up to form Great Oaks Realty in April, 2014.
“We didn’t realize that our paths would meet again,” Star explained. “But once we did, we saw that our paths were going in the same direction. We want to open the doors to home ownership while also helping give women the tools and resources to overcome adversity.”
The women draw upon their professional and personal experiences to make real estate transactions efficient and stress free. Image’s expertise in the foreclosure market coupled with Star’s understanding of traditional real estate, short sales and renovations, enables them to guide their clients through the maze of contracts, offers and negotiations that accompany home sales.
“Whether they are buying their first home or selling their current home and looking to upgrade, we let people know they are not alone in the process,” Image said. “We want their experience to be as positive as possible. Our office offers a peaceful and calm atmosphere while our sales team provides a level of expertise that generates results.”
Providing a sense of peace is something the women strive to do—not just for their clients, but also for the women they serve through the Token of Love Foundation. As part of their mission, Image and Star work with LOVELY (Lives of Validated Extraordinary Loved Young) Women who strive to break free from the bonds of addiction and abuse. They’ve developed a Fresh Start Program where LOVELY Women will receive the training necessary to get them on the road to financial independence and emotional self-sufficiency. The 18-month program includes housing assistance, job readiness training, education and GED preparation, budget counseling and personal belief therapy counseling.
With Token of Love’s final certification as a 501(c)(3) organization, there is already one LOVELY Woman currently enrolled in the Fresh Start Program. In addition to accepting additional participants, Image and Star hope to establish the “Esther-Elizabeth House” to house women and children while they are undergoing the program.
“The nonprofit certification will enable us to grant funding that will help our efforts tremendously,” Star said. “Our fundraising efforts to date have been on a very grass roots level. We’ve hosted car washes and plan to have our second annual silent auction at Bogue Falaya Park in the spring.”
Having been in an abusive relationship herself as a young adult, Star said she is compelled to help women gain independence and realize their true potential. “There are many services out there, and we do not want to duplicate our efforts,” she said. “We direct women in need to resources that are already in place—such as food banks, homeless shelters, pregnancy centers and detox programs for short term assistance. Our efforts focus on the healing that occurs following addiction and abuse, providing practical guidance and spiritual support to prevent them from falling back into destructive patterns.”
Image said she saw the transformation that took place in Star as she became more involved in her ministry. “Star had such a sense of peace. Not only was I inspired by what she was doing, I was inspired by the difference it was making in her own life. I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.
Over the last year, the two began contemplating ways they could grow their ministry and the idea for Great Oaks Realty was born. “We prayed long and hard about this decision,” Image explained. “I had a successful real estate career and a happy family. To walk away from my comfort zone was definitely a leap of faith for me. But I am so grateful I did. This is what I am meant to do.”
In addition to Star and Image, the Great Oaks team also includes Heather Upchurch and Cathy Rodriguez. Referred to as “Trailblazers,” these realtors will help support the overall mission of the company while also engaging in the Token of Love Foundation. Star and Image plan to add additional realtors in the Covington office while also expanding the Great Oaks concept into other areas in Southeast Louisiana.
Star said that she and Image are constantly receiving signs that they are fulfilling the Lord’s plan for them. “We chose Great Oaks Realty as our name because we love the Bible verse that says ‘In their righteousness, they will be like Great Oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.’ Just as trees need to be replanted from pots into the earth so they can grow to their potential, we needed to move from the ties that were binding us in order for our ministry to grow to the next level. As we were looking for office space, we found this beautiful building and right in front was this majestic Oak tree. We knew immediately that this was where we were supposed to be.