News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 3, 2013

Positive influence: Bernice Helman honored for community work

TERRE HAUTE — Her friends in town describe her as a “hard worker” and a “positive person” who brings “sunshine” to difficult situations.

Now, Bernice Helman’s effort in the Wabash Valley are being recognized nationwide.

It was announced Tuesday that Helman, vice president of Coldwell Banker Troy Helman Realtors, is one of five winners chosen by the National Association of Realtors for REALTOR Magazine’s 2013 Good Neighbor Awards.

“I’m flattered beyond words,” said Helman, who added that the “really unbelievable part” was being nominated for the award by a competing Realtor.

“I had no clue they were doing all this stuff. … It was a complete surprise to me,” she said.

The award, now in its 14th year, recognizes Realtors “who improve the quality of life in their communities through volunteer work,” according to the National Association of Realtors.

Helman has a long list of community service activities. She serves on the board of United Way of the Wabash Valley, Harsha Behavior Center and Savera Geriatric Care Center, Terre Haute Area Association of Realtors and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Leadership Advisory Council.

As a Good Neighbor Award winner, Helman will receive a $10,000 grant for her charity and will be profiled in the November/December issue of REALTOR Magazine.

The beneficiary, United Way of the Wabash Valley, is an organization that Helman has worked with for over 18 years in various capacities.

“The United Way is just so near and dear to my heart. I believe wholeheartedly in the mission of the United Way,” Helman said.

She describes the agency as a “good steward” of the money it collects and the funds help many different programs which “have such a huge impact on the whole community.”

As the 2011 campaign chair, Helman helped raise more than $1.8 million for the United Way of the Wabash Valley.

“She worked very hard every day” to reach that number, said Troy Fears, United Way executive director.

Fears recalls driving around Wabash Valley with Helman to “reach out” to smaller communities outside Terre Haute.

“She really made a conscious effort to include the outlying counties … to let them know that United Way was there,” he said.

Friends agree.

Rachel Leslie, associate vice president for Advancement at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, has worked with Helman for years. She said that Helman has the “ability to engage people,” which is her “strongest talent from the community outreach perspective.”

As campaign chair, Helman “was willing to do whatever it took,” Fears said.

Including getting up on the roof of a local grocery store.

“Twelve hours on top of Baesler’s in freezing cold temperature in January,” was Helman’s most memorable moment of that fundraising campaign year.

“But we raised $20,000 that day,” she added.

Helman, who was born in Ohio and moved to Terre Haute in 1992, just wants to make a difference in people’s lives.

“I know we can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but I really want to be involved in making a difference,” she said.

Helman particularly wants to give hope to children.

“If I can just show them that there’s a different life out there, then to me it’s worth it,” she said.

She is constantly inspired every time she works with a group of kids and “they come up and hug you … that’s what keeps me going with it,” she added.

But community service aside, Helman is also an avid and accomplished vocalist.

“It’s definitely my first love,” Helman said.

Helman and her husband, Troy, have four children: Craig, Sarah, Ryan and Abbe.

“Troy and I try to be examples for them” showing them the importance of working “toward a better community,” she said.

Helman, who has worked in real estate in the last 25 years (also in the mortgage department at First Financial Bank,) co-owns Coldwell Banker Troy Helman with her husband.

Friends and competitors alike think highly of her.

“She’s such a positive person and hardworker,” Fears said.

She constantly talks about “how great the people are” and “how great the schools are.”

When it comes to promoting Wabash Valley to new residents, the community “couldn’t find anybody better than Bernice,” Fears said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.

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