A lot was happening in mid-March as a result of the growing COVID-19 threat. Our office in Silicon Valley had closed at the start of the month, followed by all of our other offices a week later. Sports leagues were suspending seasons, businesses and schools were shutting down, kids were home indefinitely, and nothing else was certain as we learned what sheltering-in-place truly meant. Everyone was calling it “the new normal.”

It is a new approach to life and to community and to work and to family and to socializing — one that nobody was quite prepared for, but one that most people have taken to with commitment and positivity. That is, when we aren’t ugly crying between conference calls or yelling at our apparitional roommate because a dirty dish was left in the bedroom, or because we stress-ate a jumbo bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. (Tip of the hat, Meena Harris.)

And with the growing, and emotional, challenges facing our country, I began wondering how we at — a leading home search tool, and connection engine between consumers and Realtors — could serve the communities where we live and work. How could we reflect on, and help frame, the new ways that home is perceived and experienced during these unprecedented times?

We were all dealing differently as individuals with how our relationship and connection to home had changed quickly in the wake of this pandemic. I wasn’t sure what could work, if anything would feel right when so many people were hurting, anxious, unwell. But I knew we had to try; we had to think about how we could support all of these emotions and feelings that were shared alongside our family, friends, colleagues and even people we did not know.

A team — including members of our creative services organization and our advertising agency —  came up with a range of ideas: some truly remarkable, at a very large scale that would be difficult to pull off with any expediency. But one in particular stood out to us collectively and became an easy choice to pursue: create a “mini-festo” to define what this ‘new normal’ meant to all of us, as home became more than a gathering spot or a place to lay your head.

It was important to us in producing any type of creative work that we also drew attention to, and acknowledged, those groups on the front line who were funding and supporting those most in need. We all know that countless charitable organizations have served the mounting needs of others during this time, and they needed assistance, too. We discovered Feeding America, whose mission is to feed the hungry through a network of 200 local food banks across the country, and we approached our executive leadership team to approve a $100,000 company donation to the charity. With widespread support, our employees were also encouraged to participate in the collective effort and were able to double the amount and impact of any donation they made by way of our one-to-one matching program.

And so it was after riffing on the words to define home during this national and global moment of solidarity, and galvanizing around aid for Feeding America, that we took to newspapers to share our “mini-festo” of what home means to us and what has motivated us to stay home. The message was displayed in a full page ad in the leading newspapers of all the metro markets where we have offices, where our employees live and are now also working remotely.

And since, we’ve taken our “mini-festo” digital into video format as well.

It was feedback from our employees, along with partners at Feeding America that validated our efforts and reminded me of the impact we were helping to drive. As Rowena Paz Norman, Director of New Partnerships at Feeding America, stated, “This pandemic is creating a food assistance emergency unlike anything we’ve ever seen. In the face of this great challenge, there is a bright spot, created by companies like yours.”

It wasn’t easy to get to this point, and I regularly questioned whether our intent would come through. But doing so through such a collaborative effort, to support something so important, made all of this worthwhile. It was humbling and it was thrilling, even with circumspection driving our mission.

I have never been prouder to work at, as we support Feeding America and as we join a national conversation about what home means, during times of crisis as much as during times of joy. We’ve always been a group of professionals who very much believe in home as the place where we can be our realest selves, and no other experience has reminded us more of the role home plays in all of our lives.

A version of this post originally appeared on Medium where Andrew Strickman shared the full creative strategy the team took for this meaningful effort. Join us in supporting Feeding America and let us know in the comments below, why do you #StayHome?


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