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Local realtor dedicated to giving back

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 12:04 PDT, Fri July 31, 2020

At age 19, Chris Dinnell was a new father trying to make ends meet for his young family.

“We were out living on our own, using the food bank every few weeks,” he explains. “I was embarrassed about it. I didn’t tell anybody—not even my family.”

Now, at age 40, he’s gone through more life experiences and is keen to give back whenever he can. 

A few months ago, fellow Richmondite and eager volunteer Karina Reid asked Dinnell to help with food bank deliveries as part of the Coming Together Richmond Facebook group. Dinnell jumped at the opportunity, and has now completed about 120 deliveries.

“Chris is a community leader. He truly embodies the word,” says Reid of Dinnell. “He believes in the power of community, connection and how everyone can do something to help each other.”

Each Tuesday Dinnell loads seven or eight deliveries into his car and takes them to the same recipients weekly. Some wave at him from afar as they open their door, and some prefer to wait until he has left to collect their items. 

And the program has extended further than simply food delivery. One of Dinnell’s regular delivery recipients, a refugee family, received a tablet donated to the group. He bought an iTunes card to add to their delivery.

Another driver who delivered to a house for single mothers noticed that the kids didn’t have a lot of art supplies, so purchased some for them with his own money.

“When you deliver week after week, you start to form a bond with people,” says Dinnell. “You see other avenues that you can help out in.”

The deliveries have heartened Dinnell during the pandemic, and he says the feeling of giving back pays for itself tenfold.

“Just seeing the smiles on people’s faces when we drop off the boxes melts my heart,” says Dinnell. “It gives me more positivity, and that’s the way I like to live my life. When I see smiles on people’s faces, it energizes me to do more for people.”

Dinnell sees a future for the volunteer group that extends beyond the pandemic. And he hopes to be able to continue the relationship with the food bank.

“It gives us a good platform to be able to give back,” he says. “If people need something, they can go on (the Facebook group) and ask for some help and not feel ashamed for doing so.”

Bringing communities together is a value Dinnell echoes with his own marketing campaigns. His real estate company markets primarily through videos on their Facebook page, rather than more traditional methods.

“We want to do marketing differently,” he says. “We don’t just want to have our faces on bus benches, we want to be out in the community.”

He hopes other business owners around Richmond will also take the opportunity to help out.

“It seems like a lot of us want to give back. I think it just shows what people who are in business being successful can do, and use their influence to help others,” he says.

The Coming Together Richmond volunteers have taken the name of the group to heart and come together to help out their community in a time of need. Both Dinnell and Reid say they’ve formed new friendships with fellow volunteers through the initiative.

“A lot of the drivers that I see on a regular basis, I get to know,” he says. “I can’t wait until all this is over so we can have a big barbecue and give back to the drivers to let them know how amazing and special they all are. We couldn’t have done this without them.”

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