Forsyth County resident Jennifer Hodge is very active on Facebook, and most days, her friends and followers can expect to see inspirational quotes, news and reports about addiction issues and the opiate epidemic and photos of young people who have lost their lives to drug overdoses, including her own son, Robbie, who died of an overdose at age 23 in 2016 after taking a counterfeit Xanax.
Before Robbie’s death, he and Jennifer, a real estate agent, began Realty4Rehab, a project that connects Realtors with clients seeking to sell their homes. The Realtors agree to donate 33 percent of their commission to addiction recovery efforts. The clients can choose where half that money goes.
“You’ll see Robbie in a lot of pictures handing out mom’s money. You’ll see Robbie standing at the table of the teacups [memorial ceremony],” Hodge said. “All this stuff was started with him and because of him and partly his idea. It was our idea. The kid was brilliant.”
Hodge said most of the time she can find a real estate agent anywhere in the country with one phone call and said Realtors are more willing to accept the reduced rate when leads land in their lap versus her asking for a donation after-the-fact.
“I call that realtor and say, ‘Hey, it’s Jennifer Hodge. Listen, I want to give you a lead. It’s a gift. You’re going to make $5,000. You should make $7,500, but I want you to do 33 percent. Rather than giving that 33 percent back to Jennifer Hodge, I want to use it toward saving lives and stopping addiction,’” she said.
Hodge said she and Robbie, who got addicted to pain pills after a surgery in 2011, first had the idea after someone paid his way for a local drug recovery center for young men. In 2014, when the real estate market had recovered more from the recession, Realty4Rehab was born.
“Our goal is to get anybody that has anything to do with making money on the community that they live in to start giving back to save our community,” Hodge said. “We want builders, painters, landscapers, anyone that is thriving in our community to give back and save our community.”
Now, the plan is to get more real estate agents across the nation involved with recovery efforts in their home town, and the idea has spread online in recent years and will be part of an upcoming conference in Las Vegas.
On Friday and Saturday, Hodge will be among more than 100 others who are fighting for recovery to meet up in Las Vegas for a weekend of planning, leadership development and advocacy training through MobilizeRecovery, a project funded through the Facebook Community Leadership Program, which connects members in an online community through education, funding and a network of support.
“Part of the solution to ending the addiction crisis is to unify and bring together emerging leaders from around the nation, giving them the tools, the leadership development, the action network tools, the knowledge and the connection with other leaders across the country where we could collaborate and coordinate,” said Ryan Hampton, with Mobilize Recovery.
Hampton said Mobilize Recovery was the only worldwide program focused on addiction recovery to be selected for the program, which was an eight-month process.
Between attendees, presenters and staff, about 150 people will be involved in the conference, Hampton said.
“It’s a very diverse group coming from all sectors of the issue, whether its families of loss, families of people in recovery, people in recovery from addiction, harm reductionists, people who are involved in prevention,” Hampton said.
Hampton said he and other members of Mobilize Recovery were impressed with Hodge’s new attempt at funding and her ability to spread her message online.
“Jennifer’s application was one that really caught our selection committee’s eye, her innovation and her work with Realty4Rehab and trying to create revenue sources through the corporate sector to get people help,” he said. “As important as that has been her ability to utilize digital tools and social media to create a massive amount of awareness around what it’s like to be the mother of a child that has died of a drug overdose … she’s done that very well.”
Hodge said it had been “a long two-and-a-half years” since Robbie’s passing but hopes his story can steer others away from or through addiction issues.
“Everybody’s got to start looking at this a little differently because losing your kids should not be a normal thing,” she said. “Another thing that I think is huge and important is we do nothing really for the amount of grief going on through our community, and there’s nothing set up for siblings.”