Self-made businesswoman and realtor Yvette Boatwright reflects on her community outreach ahead of receiving Habitat for Humanity’s Hancock, McGill & Bleau Housing Leadership Award.
By Fiza Kuzhiyil, Photos courtesy of Habitat for Humanity
Every year, Yvette Boatwright and her employees at Realty Austin put on their matching shirts and set aside part of their commission checks for a special annual tradition—building a house with Habitat for Humanity.
Boatwright and Realty Austin have served as Full House Sponsors for 10 years, donating $100,000 per house and building beside the Habitat homeowner during the entire construction process.
“We love that our agents are able to get their hands dirty, to go build with Habitat for Humanity every year,” Boatwright says. “We are in our 10th year. Two hundred agents go out and build a home for deserving families; they love that we provide them those opportunities.”
After years of dedication and commitment to providing affordable housing solutions to Central Texas, Habitat for Humanity will present Boatwright with the Hancock, McGill & Bleau Housing Leadership Award. Notably, Habitat doesn’t grant the prestigious award annually. It’s a prestigious award given to those who Habitat deems a remarkable member of the community working toward affordable housing.
Memories of Childhood
“When I found out I was gonna get the award I cried,” Boatwright reveals. As a realtor, Boatwright is passionate about affordable housing, but the homeowners and their story drive each build. Single mothers make up 53% of Habitat homeowners. For Boatwright, that hits home. Once a single mother herself, Boatwright shares a special connection to the people she builds homes for.
As she reflects on her decade with Habitat for Humanity, she recalls her own childhood.
“[I was] this little girl that was also raised by a single mom and grew up in a house that was not much bigger than a Habitat home, but it was safe,” Boatwright says. “I didn’t have to move over and over again, It’s so stable…I recognized that that was so important for me growing up.”
Yvette Boatwright, the Giver
Now Boatwright builds children the kind of childhood her mother gave her. A realtor and a businesswoman, she has always believed in working toward affordable housing. But she credits her charitable drive to her mother.
“She was a big giver,” Boatwright says. “When you give, you get back tenfold. So she always kind of instilled that in us. If you have something, give it, share it, do whatever you need to do to help others succeed.”
When she started Realty Austin, she decided to partner up with various local organizations as a way to give back. While Boatwright makes an effort to work with other organizations, such as the SAFE Alliance, she consistently returns to Habitat.
“We knew that we needed to focus on affordability in Austin, even way back then,” she says. “We’ve been focused on affordability since I think 2010. We challenged our agents to give a portion of every commission to this charitable fund so that we could build a home with Habitat for Humanity every year. So we could provide the match fund for foundation communities.”
As a self-made Hispanic woman, Boatwright also relates to the communities of color that make up 73% of Habitat homeowners. Boatwright got into real estate in 2000 after years of working as a teacher. She believes teaching and real estate go hand in hand. That real estate is like teaching adults.
“Self-made to me really means never giving up,” she says. “I did have to kind of overcome issues. But the thing I learned the most is that you have to lean into those opportunities, even though they’re uncomfortable. You speak up, even if your voice shakes.”
For the past ten years, Boatwright has worked with the Austin Habitat for Humanity as a donor, builder and board member. Yet it seems like she’s only getting started. With the expansion of her company to San Antonio, she hopes to help out the community there, where she grew up. No matter where she goes, however, Boatwright will get face-to-face with the work she’s doing.
“Writing a check is not enough for me, it should not be enough for anybody,” Boatwright says. “We’re all put on this earth to do big things and to help each other out. As that leader for my company, my agents, they follow me. I’m just trying to inspire them to give more to these organizations.”