Annie Hart Cool Receives 2020 CCIAOR Good Neighbor Award

Six months ago, the front steps of a home meant something completely different to REALTOR® Annie Hart Cool; they symbolized a new property to sell or the next listing for her buyer to consider. This past March, that all changed.

While at home during the early days of the COVID-19 shutdown, Annie launched #TheFrontStepsProject as a way to spend her time that was typically devoted to meeting with clients and showing homes. In collaboration with her friend, local photographer, Lee Geishecker, Annie helped raise $30,000 through the program to support The Falmouth Service Center, a local charity close to her heart.

“Lee and I knew The Falmouth Service Center would be hurting,” Annie said. “#TheFrontStepsProject was a way to help local families in need, while also cataloguing such an extraordinary time.”

During the project, 270 households were photographed, totaling 1,000 faces and 300 pets that ranged from dogs to chickens. As more and more people wanted to be involved, Annie made sure to accommodate those in the medical field even if that meant photographing them in the evening after a long shift. A few weeks later, Annie pivoted the project to highlight fifty local businesses that reinvented themselves to support the community.

“The project took off like wildfire,” Annie said. “At one point, we were going to fifteen houses per day.”

It was completely optional for participants to make a donation to The Falmouth Service Center as payment for getting a photograph taken, though many chose to do so. The funds raised from the program have assisted The Falmouth Service Center with their food distribution program, which has served over 1,200 households so far and continues to support families in the Cape Cod community.

“We were serving a record number of households when the project launched and they [Annie and Lee] played a key role because the funds were coming in early during the crisis,” said Kerin Delaney, Acting Executive Director of The Falmouth Service Center. “It was a win-win-win and a great community partnership.”

As a former social worker, Annie has long been attuned to the needs of her fellow Cape Codders. She has served in many volunteer roles in the community such as President of the Woods Hole Theater Company, Character Actor, portraying Katharine Lee Bates at the Museums on the Green, and is a founding member of the Cape Cod Women’s Round.

"Once you get sand in your shoes, you become by the nature of your area a community advocate,” Annie said in reference to living on Cape Cod. “There is a community spirit of taking care of each other.”

Perhaps one of her most beloved roles in the community is that of Justice of the Peace. During the pandemic, Annie offered to marry couples whose weddings were canceled due to COVID-19. Many of these couples were experiencing the frustration of an expiring marriage license, or a financial loss because of venues not being able to offer them a refund.

“‘Love endures!’ is what I tell a lot of my couples,” Annie said. “I love the ‘love business’ and it was heartbreaking to see so many couples having to cancel their weddings.”

Whether it’s the marriage of two people or the marriage between a person and a home, Annie has an outstanding commitment to bringing people together. She learned as a child that giving back to her community was a way of life. Her mother, a single parent to five children, taught her that the way to get is to give.

It was only natural, then, that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Annie felt compelled to help her community. Despite concerns from family members and friends warning her not to visit so many homes and interact with other people, Annie knew she wanted to help any way that she could.

“I think we all need to reach outside of ourselves,” Annie said. “Supporting my community is a way to get back in touch and look out instead of in.”

One of three nominees of the 2020 Good Neighbor Award, Annie served as a strong, natural leader for her community through an unprecedented time. She continues to contribute her time and inspire other volunteers, in addition to her real estate business.

“It’s good to be giving back,” Annie said. “It’s just how I live my life.”

A retrospective exhibit of #TheFrontStepsProject is in the planning stages for exhibit at The Highfield Hall and Gardens in early 2021.

Good Neighbor Spotlight

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