As president of the newly formed Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP) Maui Chapter, George Thoma is on a mission to help veterans and their families realize their dreams of homeownership.
And it’s a personal mission: Thoma’s son is a machinist in the U.S. Navy, and his son-in-law, a U.S. Army captain, is preparing for deployment to Afghanistan. “As a man with military family members, I have a big heart for the military and veterans,” he said. “I want to help them make good choices for their future.”
So, when Thoma, a licensed mortgage loan originator, was invited by the VAREP Northern Nevada Chapter to attend a military veterans housing certification course in Reno, he seized the opportunity. “The course helped me to understand the VA home loan program history and its features and benefits, along with other VA loan guaranty programs,” he said. “It also gave me the specific knowledge, clarity and confidence to be a stronger professional who helps those who have served.”
For Thoma, the decision to join the VAREP Maui Chapter was an easy one. “During my career, I have helped many military members pursue the dream of homeownership and some of them had difficulty managing their finances,” he explained. “As a licensed mortgage loan originator, I often can see the challenges these active military and veteran applicants are going through. Also, in the past, I worked at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Since Wells Fargo was a major national sponsor for VAREP, I felt duty-bound to support VAREP since it was part of their national charitable giving program. Wells Fargo makes large and worthy contributions to VAREP, both nationally and locally.”
Established in 2011, VAREP is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization comprised of professional leaders in the real estate, finance and escrow industries. The organization aims to increase sustainable homeownership, financial literacy education, VA loan awareness and economic opportunities for the active military and veteran communities. VAREP accomplishes its mission through a five-point plan that includes programs and services like homeownership advocacy, community outreach, professional membership, veteran job creation and affordable veteran housing. The nascent VAREP Maui Chapter joins the VAREP Honolulu Chapter, which was established in 2014. VAREP is seeking to expand further; it plans to launch additional chapters in Hawaii and the Pacific region in the years to come.
VAREP membership is open to anyone and is not limited to those who have served, Thoma said. “[Ideal members are] military and non-military real estate, real estate-related and financial service professionals who wish to share, educate, empower and better serve the real estate needs of service members, veterans and military families on Maui,” he said.
VAREP has chapters nationwide, and while its members may come from different walks of life, they all have one thing in common. “It’s a community of like-minded individuals who have a passion and purpose for service—and the VAREP Maui chapter is an extension of that,” Thoma said. “This group seeks to help the military member before, during and after [the homebuying process] to ensure they are a homeowner until their last salute.”
Thoma says he looks forward to helping local veterans and their families through the VAREP Maui Chapter. “We seek to put every veteran in housing and every effort we make is a step toward that goal,” he said. “Everything we do is for those who have served.”
The VAREP Maui Chapter will host a launch ceremony and “lunch and learn” event on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Realtors® Association of Maui main office in Kahului. To reserve your seat, visit www.mauilunchandlearn.eventbrite.com. Thoma said the nonprofit will soon be raising funds for its homebuyer’s assistance program, as well as training and educational events. “We look forward to a ‘VAREP Cares’ event during the holidays,” he said. “All funds raised locally stay local. Anyone with an interest should come to a meeting to see what we are all about.” To learn more about the VAREP Maui Chapter or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, visit www.varep.net/index.php/maui-chapter or contact Thoma at email@example.com.
By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – September 16, 2017