Dale Sorensen Jr. has been a man on a mission in recent weeks. Besides managing his family’s successful real estate business, which sold more than $1 billion worth of property in 2020, he has been working feverishly to create and deliver 15,000 COVID-19 safety kits to barrier island seniors, along with Sorensen clients, nonprofit organizations and first responders in Indian River and Brevard counties.
The project is very personal to Sorensen, who felt compelled to do something to help the community in a difficult time – so much so that he tried to do the whole thing himself, working long days and late nights to source PPE items, get them manufactured, assembled in a package and delivered.
His agents and office staff and even some members of his family did not know what he was up to until the second week in February, when the first kits were mailed to barrier island seniors.
“This was a secret plan of mine,” Sorensen told Vero Beach 32963 last week.
“I wanted to keep it quiet, but it was a tremendous amount of work sourcing 15,000 masks, custom boxes, sanitizer keys chains, sanitizer wipes, and sanitizer spray pens. I kept running into walls.”
Eventually he bought in outside logistics help to get all the items manufactured to standard and shipped to Orlando where there were assembled into attractive kits.
“This is the largest community service project we have ever done and way more expensive than any marketing thing we have ever done,” Sorensen said.
All the PPE items bear the company name and signature color, and Sorensen acknowledges there is a marketing component to the project.
“There is no solicitation in the kits, but clearly the good will of a brand is important to business,” he said. “I think people want to be involved with companies that do more than just sell houses. Without the community we don’t have anything, and this helps us further position ourselves as community partner.”
But it is clear in talking with Dale Jr. that he was motivated primarily by a desire to help others and express appreciation to the people who have supported his family’s business and helped it grow into the largest real estate agency headquartered in Vero, which now does business from 12 locations from Cocoa Beach to Fort Pierce.
And the gesture struck a chord. Since distribution began, grateful emails, texts and calls have poured in.
“Thank you for the excellent care package of COVID-19 prevention accessories that arrived at our home yesterday,” Joseph Zock of Tocqueville Asset Management on Cardinal Drive wrote in an email. “What a great idea … Your attractive gift [is] a strong reminder that the goals and concerns of Sorensen Real Estate are closely aligned with those of the entire community.”
“The kits have been a godsend,” said Natasha Duran, executive director of Candlelighters of Brevard, a nonprofit organization that provides emotional support and financial assistance to pediatric cancer patients and their families in Brevard and Indian River counties.
Duran told Vero Beach 32963 the kits are especially valuable to the families Candlelighters serves because the kids may have weakened immune systems due to their disease and treatments they are receiving, which makes them more vulnerable to the virus. The kits are something parents can toss in the car and have handy when driving children to medical appointments.
“These families have to take extra precautions,” Duran said. “And they are in the car a lot. There are no pediatric oncology hospitals in Brevard or Indian River County, so the parents have to drive their children back and forth to Tampa, Miami or Orlando constantly. The kits are a game changer for them.”
She added that the emotional side of the equation is equally important because the free kits show families they are “not alone in their fight,” that there are others in the community thinking about them and “cheering them on.”
It was actually hard to get Duran to stop talking about the kindness of the Sorensens, who rent office space in Indialantic to Candlelighters at a reduced rate and provided several months of rent forgiveness earlier in the pandemic as the organization struggled like other nonprofits to stay afloat without being able to put on fundraising events.
Candlelighters, which is in its 28th year, currently serves about 70 families and Sorensen provided kits for all of them and to spare.
Dale Jr. got the idea for the kits late last year and ran it by his father, Dale Sr., but did not tell anyone else in the company.
He had hoped to have the PPE packages ready by January but discovered the logistics were more time consuming than he expected, especially since he had never before managed a manufacturing process on such a scale.
The scope of the project can be inferred from the fact that when the first 7,500 kits were ready to be mailed, the post office could not handle them all at once.
Instead, they had to be sent out in batches. After the mailings were complete, the rest of the kits were hand delivered to nonprofits and others.
Besides Candlelighters, nonprofits that received kits include Boys and Girls Club, Senior Resource Center, Gifford Youth Activity Center, Hibiscus Children’s Center, Hope For Families and others.
When Sorensen revealed the project to his agents, they rushed to help with distribution, so much so that he had to cut off the invitation to volunteer shortly after issuing it, ending up with more than 30 agents helping out.
The extra help did not slow his personal efforts. He did an interview from his car last week while driving to Orlando to check on the assembly process, and on Friday he took his two sons, ages 3 and 9, out of school to ride along and help with distribution.
“The culture of caring has always been a part of our upbringing and company,” Sorensen said. “Toward the end of last year, I came to the conclusion we had to do something to help the community in the midst of this pandemic.”
As of Sunday, about 90 percent of the kits had been distributed, with the remainder being delivered over the next few days.
“It was a tremendous amount of work,” Dale Jr. said, “but like I told my mom, it was the right thing to do.”
Photos by Brenda Ahearn