“I know a lot of times the struggle is to get your family in a more stable position.”
Those words belong to Chuck Berendes, general manager of Gerrard-Hoeschler Realtors, based in La Crosse. As a young immigration attorney, Berendes frequently was moved by the plight of the homeless and displaced, and he wanted to do all he could to better their families, as well as the community as a whole.
“I think, somehow during all that process, I convinced Gerrard-Hoeschler I was competent,” he said.
Having gone to the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Berendes was fully equipped to handle real estate law, help his fellow agents, draft policy and handle the daily management of the office in La Crosse.
Berendes is one of the core members of Shelter Development, the non-profit organization sponsored by Gerrard-Hoeschler. Through Francis Homes, a program of Shelter Development, he’s able to work with local organizations – such as the La Crosse Area Family Collaborative – to help get families into housing.
As his wife, Polly, pointed out when she nominated him for Rising Stars Under 40, Berendes does so much more. He’s a devoted father of three, active president of the Parish Council at Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, and a Boy Scout leader to his son’s den. He’s also working on the development of the old Naval site on Green Bay Street, and his advocacy for the homeless community also led him to help establish the Warming Center in La Crosse, as well as a day facility known as the Franciscan Hospitality House.
“Chuck’s love for his hometown has prompted him to make sacrifices to keep his family growing, living and playing in the heart of our city,” Polly said. “As a result, his passion for promoting business growth, inner-city housing opportunities for families, and employing talented, vibrant realtors has made him an outstanding young professional in our community.”
Berendes, a graduate of Aquinas High School, has always had a strong relationship with La Crosse and its residents.
“I’ve always been proud of being from here,” he said. “It’s a physically beautiful place.”
But, there’s more to it than aesthetics.
“People are working hard to have a stable, functioning community,” he said. “You go other places, and that’s not always how it works.”
For Berendes, the formula has worked because, as each step in his career presented itself to him, he finalized it before moving on. That follow-through, as well as his strong faith, are things he imparts by way of advice.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of identifying that next step,” he said. “I’m heading somewhere. I don’t know where it is, but I’ll get guidance when I’m there.”
For Berendes, part of his collaborative success comes from not accepting the old maxim, “That’s how it’s always been done.”
“I often feel like I am trying to do something there isn’t a road map for,” he said, “and I am often under-qualified, and somewhat embarrassed, by my lack of expertise. But, I want to help people and be part of the solution to problems. I’m too dumb to just leave things well enough alone.”