The Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR) congratulates Bincy Jacob, Broker Associate/Team Lead at ERA Legacy Living, on her selection as recipient of the prestigious John E. Wolf Community Service Award for 2023. Each year, HAR honors a member that made an outstanding contribution to the community, primarily outside the scope of real estate. The criteria for the John E. Wolf Community Service Award, which is named after 1938-39 HAR President John E. Wolf, include leadership and service in charitable organizations, service organizations and special service organizations.

Shortly after 9/11, Bincy became a domestic violence counselor at a Brooklyn, New York police precinct receiving nearly a thousand domestic violence calls a month. She spent days handling paid domestic violence work and evenings and weekends training community members on healthy relationships and supporting survivors.

Bincy assisted 550 ironworkers that came to the U.S. from India as part of rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Katrina. These guestworkers, however, found themselves in deplorable working and living conditions. When they turned to the Southern Poverty Law Center for help, Bincy was enlisted as a volunteer community labor rights organizer, translator and paralegal for the next four years. She traveled nationwide, visiting federal prison holding facilities, testifying at congressional hearings, and interpreting for legislative members in public forums. Bincy played a crucial role in securing legal status and compensation for workers in one of the most significant U.S. labor trafficking cases.

Bincy became executive director of a survivor-serving organization, catapulting its budget from $250,000 to $1M in under two years. When she moved to Houston, she became the first executive director of Daya Houston, providing critical support to domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

During Hurricane Harvey, Bincy gained local recognition for her multilingual videos about accessing assistance from government and private organizations. She frequently serves as an interpreter in courts, hospitals and school meetings, aiding new immigrants. Many women attest to Bincy’s tireless efforts, from helping them craft resumes and securing their first jobs to teaching them how to drive.

In the wake of the 2020 George Floyd killing, Bincy founded a Facebook group called “Malayalis for Black Lives” to foster support and education among her ethnic peers. In one week, the group grew to 10,000 members, hosting teach-ins, panels and training sessions the following year.

Bincy continued her commitment to community service when she started in real estate by participating in multiple advisory groups. She also serves with Sleep in Heavenly Peace to construct beds for underprivileged children.

Bincy coaches her peers and hosts a free weekly accountability group, mentoring new agents. In her other role, she is a devoted wife and mother of four children.

Bincy discussed why she is so committed to giving back to the community and what this honor means to her.

What was your first reaction when you learned that you were the 2023 honoree?

When HAR Chair Cathy Trevino’s name showed up on my phone right before the HAR Board Meeting, I thought maybe she was calling me because I had to take care of an MLS issue or something similar. But when she shared the news, I was genuinely shocked and couldn’t help but get emotional. After years of working behind the scenes and finally being “seen” –the surprise and honor of that moment was beyond my imagination. I was profoundly grateful.

What does this honor mean to you?

I’m truly humbled by this award from the best real estate organization in the country and by leaders who live out the definition of “service” for years at a time. I dedicate this award to all the unsung heroes who tirelessly serve without receiving praise. It also reaffirms the incredible strength that lives in our communities. In all of my volunteerism, I’ve witnessed over and over again, the way ordinary individuals work together to achieve extraordinary feats. There is no single “savior”– instead we create collective action which builds lasting systems of change.

What do you find most gratifying about your work as a real estate professional?

The most gratifying part of my role as a real estate professional is that I get to be connected to clients and communities for the long run. We are connectors and bridges, offering support and solutions for various challenges, whether they are significant or small. And in times of crisis, we step in as reliable resources. What an honor to be trusted to be part of folks’ lives for years and through generational changes!

What are some of the ways that you give back to the community?

I’ve been fortunate to be involved in various forms of community service throughout my life. One of the most significant experiences was working with a group of international guest workers who were subjected to labor exploitation. I was part of a small team who fought tirelessly to secure legal status and compensation for them in one of the largest labor trafficking cases in the country. I’ve worked, and still continue to work extensively, with survivors of violence and crisis response, providing emergency mental health support, interpretation services, education and public advocacy.

As a real estate professional, I have been part of multiple crisis response efforts with interpretation work and community education. I’m also proud to be part of various Realtor® organizations that focus on connecting and supporting professionals in our industry, and, most recently, to be part of the founding board of the South Asian Real Estate Professionals (SAREP).

How can others get involved with community service?

I believe that we are placed in certain positions and locations to observe and help when the need arises. Keep your eyes open to the people around you and notice who is not “seen” or whose voice is missing from the table. Even helping one person or a small group of people puts you on a path to understanding and addressing larger systemic issues.

In a more formal context, there are many small and large organizations that could benefit from the individual help you can provide. As Realtors®, most of us possess amazing skill sets to connect people with one another, to passionately and eloquently raise awareness about causes, and to bring people to work together. Let’s use our abilities for good!

Any other thoughts or comments?

Thank you to my parents, who have constantly shown my sisters and me the power of sacrificial giving and serving. Thank you for setting a foundation of faith to help me keep a strong moral compass. To my husband and children, thank you for serving by default and always keeping me anchored in hope and love. A heartfelt thanks to my colleagues, many who are also immersed in service and giving back– I am grateful for the bonds we’ve forged along the way. Each of you inspire me with the work you do and give me hope as we make a positive impact in Houston and beyond.