Realtor Andrew Bers advocates for Southeastern Guide Dogs.
ANDREW BERS, a realtor associate with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, has gone to the dogs—the Southeastern Guide Dogs, that is. He’s made it his mission to raise funds and awareness for the nonprofit organization, which matches specially bred and trained guide dogs with sight-impaired people and wounded veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress to enable them to live independently.
Southeastern Guide Dogs, based in Palmetto with auxiliary outreach centers and dog boutiques in downtown Sarasota and St. Petersburg, currently has more than 500 guide and public service golden retrievers, labs and goldadors (a lab/golden retriever mix) deployed across America; another 500 puppies are being trained by a wide network of volunteers.
Premier Sotheby’s sponsored a guide dog last year. That’s when Bers learned that it costs about $60,000 for the two-year process to take a puppy from conception through training to placement; the person who eventually receives that guide dog is charged nothing.
“These dogs make a difference, and together with the volunteers and staff, they change lives,” he says. He subsequently helped sponsor the organization’s walkathon last spring at Payne Park, and afterwards took 14 friends for a tour of the state-of-the-art campus. He also sent out hundreds of Christmas cards to clients, friends and colleagues last December with a message about Southeastern Guide Dogs, donated $5 for each card to Southeastern Guide Dogs, and invited his network of colleagues and friends to help name a puppy. (The winning names: Cadillac if it was a boy, Coquina if it was a girl. Cadillac was born in March.) He continues to send regular e-blasts touting Southeastern Guide Dogs’ accomplishments.
Bers has always been an animal lover, but this is his first in-depth philanthropic commitment. “I just needed the right organization,” he says. “Who knew?”