SPOTLIGHT ON: Jeanne Shields

SPOTLIGHT ON: Jeanne Shields
Jeanne Shields

A Give-Back Journey

At this point in her life, Jeanne Shields is taking a little breather from her many, many philanthropic activities, including serving as a Trustee and fundraising volunteer for the Hudson Gateway Realtor Foundation. The Associate Broker with Howard Hanna | Rand Realty’s Nyack office has a very good reason for her much-needed rest—over the summer, she donated a kidney to her daughter Lauren, who will turn 21 next month.

The surgery was a life-changing event for both, especially given Lauren’s history of a life-threatening illness. When she was just eight years old, Lauren developed viral myocarditis, a rare heart disease. Shortly after her diagnosis, she went into heart failure where her heart was working at only 14%.

She spent the next nine months at Columbia Presbyterian, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital while waiting for a new heart. When her condition declined even further, Shields contacted Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley. Fortunately, Lauren was able to receive a new heart, but later suffered a stroke while recovering at the hospital.

After she was eventually sent home, Lauren spent most of her time in her bedroom recovering. Her “wish” for a bedroom makeover, complete with new furnishings, a TV and clothes, was granted. In 2014, Lauren was the featured speaker at HGAR’s “Make-A-Wish” gala held at the Clubhouse at Patriot Hills in Stony Point.

Shields explained that Lauren’s kidney failure was a result of the many medications she is taking for her heart. While the meds have since changed, they require constant monitoring. Both mother and daughter returned to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for the kidney transplant, which was a huge success. “We’re ‘frequent flyers’ there,” Shields quipped. “I think I just need some time to get strong again and I’ll be back to all of my advocacy and fundraising work. It’s such a big part of my life.”

Adhering to the “family first” motto, Shields said she is so grateful to her Realtor family during the time before and after the surgery. “The Rands and the agents were so incredibly supportive and helpful,” she acknowledged. “They were constantly reaching out to make sure we were OK and they even sent food for us to the hospital. I never had the feeling of pressure from work.”

From left, Lauren and her mother Jeanne Shields after the kidney transplant operation at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

It was shortly after the “Make-A-Wish” gala that Shields got involved with the HG Realtor Foundation. “I wanted to do more at a local level with the board and with my peers,” she recalled. “I was also very impressed with Bonnie Koff and her contributions, so I wanted to step in and work with her and the committee. (Koff still chairs the HG Realtor Foundation Fundraising Committee.)

Later, Shields became a Trustee of the foundation, while continuing to help with fundraising and attending events. “I was the point person for a couple of Rockland events and it was so much fun,” she said. “I met some great people who I never would have had the opportunity to know had I not been involved. I miss the live events but I’m looking forward to us all being able to come together again.”

Shields remains involved with LiveOnNY, a non-profit advocating for organ and tissue donation, as well as the New York Alliance for Donation. She was personally invited to lobby on behalf of NYAD in Albany to allow young adults, with parental consent, to enroll in an organ donor registry at age 16.

She and her daughter Lauren also actively campaigned for organ donor programs and helped to enact “Lauren’s Law,” which makes it mandatory for New Yorkers to answer the question about organ donations on their driver’s license. In the past, drivers could ignore the question. Since that time, Michigan has also adopted a similar law. “It’s made such a huge difference in the number of organ donations,” added Shields.

In the past, Shields has also been a volunteer with the New York Blood Center, the American Heart Association, the Helen Hayes Foundation and many others.

Although she does love her philanthropic work, Shields assures she is just as dedicated to her life as a Realtor and manager. She has worked with Howard Hanna | Rand Realty for the past four years, and before that she served as a salesperson  with Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, a productivity coach with Keller Williams Realty and branch manager with Weichert Realtors.

Shields actually started her real estate career as a salesperson with Weichert back in 2000, while seeking part-time work when her children were young. “It seemed like a good idea to me, and I guess it has been,” she admitted. Today, she manages 41 agents, striving to be available to them whenever they need.

Prior to real estate, she designed jewelry for trunk shows and sold to some local boutiques. When Shields eventually sold her business, she had five sales representatives working with her. The business, Tokens of Love, featured necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings and pins with semi-precious stones and antique features. “I had no formal training for that, but I just enjoyed being creative,” she added.

Shields holds a degree in Business Administration from Iona College in New Rochelle and her daughter Lauren is now attending Dominican College in Orangeburg, studying life sciences. Her son Brandon, 26, is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and is learning to be a pilot.

In the little spare time that she has in her breaks from real estate and volunteering, Shields likes to stay fit with boxing workouts. “It’s a great stress relief and probably the best workout out there,” she said. The Stony Point resident also loves doing outdoor activities like hiking and going to the beach.

“I do look forward to getting back to my volunteer and fundraising work,” she said. “It’s all part of my give-back journey. I want to say ‘thank you’ to the universe for giving me my daughter back.”

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