In 2000, Joe Mondelli and his family wanted to make a change. He chose to leave behind his roots in Medford, NJ, and move his family to Sanibel.
Now owner of John R. Wood Island Real Estate Inc., Mondelli quickly grew his company to one of the top three real estate companies on the island and is one of the more prominent faces on Sanibel. And it wasn't by accident.
"My education background is in marketing," said Mondelli, who owned a restaurant for 20 years in his hometown before making the move to Sanibel. "A marketing guy wants to be busy, active, I got to do all the things I went to school for [while owning a restaurant]. Advertising, promotion, finance, even labor relations."
Joe Mondelli, owner of John R. Wood Island Real Estate.
He also dabbled in various real estate projects before moving to the islands.
Mondelli was used to having a hand in every business decision, with his wife, high school sweetheart Linda, at home taking care of their family. They both went to Rutgers and now have three daughters.
"When we moved here, it was like cutting the cord. I was unconcerned, it was a conscious decision. I thought, 'I'll figure out what to do.' I was 49, this isn't retiring, I'll find something."
They sold their restaurant of 20 years and moved to Sanibel.
"It was an interesting thing. When you're active and busy like that, everyone needs your input on something, and then it just stops."
Family has always been a priority for the Mondelli family, as well as being involved in the community.
"We liked being in one location with a lot of intensity, being involved in the town."
When they made the move, Joe wasn't sure how to get involved on the islands. It started when Linda went to one of the first meetings for what is now known as 'Sanibel Captiva Cares.'
"In our former hometown Linda would introduce herself when we went out, and people would say, 'you're Joe's wife.' Linda got to know all these women on Sanibel, I wasn't doing much at all at first. For the next year and a half we would go to things and I'd introduce myself, and now people would say, 'oh, you're Linda's husband!'" he said with a laugh.
He was fine with this, but thought it was time for him to make his move.
In January 2007 John R. Wood Island Real Estate Inc. was born, and with it a new standard for running a real estate company.
"With every transaction, our agents make a donation, and we match that donation [to Golisano Children's Hospital]," Mondelli said. "Every time business is done in our firm, money is raised all year long, not just during fundraisers."
'Sanibel Captiva Cares' has an explicit mission to raise money for the Golisano Children's Hospital, a mission it has succeeded in valiantly, raising millions of dollars since its inception in 2000.
The Mondellis have ran their company with the purpose of getting not only the same generous annual donors to 'SanCap Cares,' but also getting the community and local businesses involved who typically may not be able to donate as much money as their time and sponsorship.
"I'm a businessman that's interested in raising all the businesses in the area, because that's how my business becomes successful," Mondelli said. "That starts with how we run the company. Typically broker-owners list and sell real estate and compete with their own agents. My partner and I do nothing but support our agents and run our company the best way we can to expose their properties, professionalism, and the only way we make money is if they make money."
Instead of competing with his agents, Mondelli has focused his time and efforts on reaching out to the community and providing literature and websites that help people make decisions, whether it be in real estate or where to go out to dinner. John R. Wood provides a free business directory at sanibelmarketplace.com, as well as a website featuring a number of videos on Sanibel called AboutSanibelIsland.com.
"Nobody pays us anything for this, if you're a business on the islands we put you on the website. We do that as a service to the business community," he said. "We want to be in relationships with people that are willing to help people accomplish their goals, it's not always about getting a fee or even making an appointment."
In November of last year John R. Wood Island Real Estate started a new fundraising tool for 'SanCap Cares' called Noah's Concert for the Kids, featuring 12-year-old Noah Waddell. Waddell is the son of Barry, a John R. Wood agent, and started playing the piano five years ago. He's now a prodigy who has donated his time and talents to Lee Memorial Hospitals and has appeared on NBC and Wink News TV.
"The knowledge of the need of the Children's Hospital was spread," said Mondelli. " Noah's got a million-dollar smile, and extremely talented. My goal was to try to get the people involved, and it worked."
More information on Noah and his local exploits can be found at noahwaddell.com.