Della Stoddard was an injured worker on L&I for almost five years when she decided she was done not being allowed to work. So in March 2015, she met with her lawyer and vocational counselor at Career Horizons to discuss jobs that she could do with her injuries. Della had always been interested in real estate, but the vocation program required she get a job that was salary not commission-based. That was when Della decided on property management, a subsection of real estate that comes with a salary.

“I had a tough road ahead of me,” Della says. “I had to get my high school diploma and then my real estate license.” Della’s counselor matched her up with Centralia College to get her diploma, which is part of their Transitional Education program to help those 21-years-old and over to prepare for college. Della made a big impression on the program director with her commitment to success.

Della Stoddard
Max Vogt of Windermere Centralia and Della Stoddard share in her success at Windermere. Photo courtesy: Windermere Centralia

“Della showed up and continued to apply herself even when she felt she was not making any progress,” says Deborah Shriver, BEDA Program Manager and Assistant Professor for the Transitional Education program at Centralia College. “What one needs to earn a high school diploma later in life is motivation and a desire to finish. Della had both. She encouraged other students not to give up, she continued to apply herself even when she was frustrated, and she held herself accountable to complete what she started.”

When she was nearing completion of her diploma studies, Della enrolled at Portland Community College (PCC) for their Real Estate Broker License Test Prep Course. This course is offered completely online and includes coursework and an externship.

Part of the PCC course was a nine-month internship at a real estate office where Della could shadow someone working in property management. She was matched with Windermere Centralia. While other real estate firms had turned down the internship, Max Vogt, Designated Broker/Owner of Windermere Centralia, and his team were more than happy to mentor Della.

“Our market has been really busy and the idea of a volunteer helping in any way she could was very appealing,” Max says. “Since it was new for us, we weren’t sure how it would turn out, but we were willing to take the risk.”

Windermere Property Management
Betty Gaudreau (right), helped Della Stoddard (left) learn all she needed about the ins and outs of real estate and property management so she could have a successful career at Windermere Centralia. Photo credit: Kristina Lotz

As fate would have it, Betty Gaudreau – the person in the Windermere office who runs the property management side – just happened to need a bit of extra help at that time as well.

Betty has been in real estate for several decades and knows her business. After selling Windermere Centralia to Max in 1996, she stayed on to run the property management side as well as do some sales. Like Della, she can’t imagine not working. Even an injured knee wasn’t going to keep her from her work.

“At that time, I was interested in having some help because was preparing for knee replacement surgery, which would slow me down,” Betty explains. “I enjoyed having Della’s help and getting to know her while viewing and inspecting homes.”

Della received her high school diploma while simultaneously doing her internship and PCC course. She would spend 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Centralia College and then 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Windermere, shadowing Betty. The internship gave Della the experience and knowledge she needed to be confident in her new career.

Property management has a lot of special nuances that most realtors do not need to know, so being able to shadow someone in that field was imperative for Della. The realtors represent the owner of the property, who usually live out of the area but have a home locally they want to keep. The rent provides an income that covers taxes, insurance and a mortgage payment if they still owe on the property. It’s the realtor’s job to screen prospective tenant information, collect monthly rent and handle any issues the tenant has, including letting the owner know when repairs or maintenance need to be done. They also give the owners a monthly print out of income and expenses.

“Everyone was very supportive and encouraging for questions or anything I needed,” Della says. And the feeling was mutual.

“Della has turned out to be one of the hardest workers I have,” says Max. “She really appreciated this opportunity that came to her and she really took advantage of it. She was the perfect person for this internship. I am really proud of her.”

From Intern to Staff Member

When her nine-month internship was up, Della just kept coming into the office even though she still had to take the test to get her real estate license. “I had my chair and I wasn’t giving it up,” she laughs.

Windermere Centralia
Windermere Centralia’s picturesque historical building became the place where Della Stoddard’s real life fairy tale came true when she achieved her dream of a new career. Photo courtesy: Windermere Centralia

And when she did pass her test, Della was immediately welcomed as a new team member of Windermere Centralia. “Her work ethic, her dedication and my recognition of her very positive future in real estate made hiring her an easy decision,” Max says.

Della loves her new job and her coworkers, who she says are like a family. “They support and help each other, it’s wonderful,” she says. “And I love going out and seeing the properties and meeting clients. It’s also great to help people find a rental that works for them.”

“She has blossomed into a professional, engaging individual who is experiencing success in her career,” says Deborah Shriver, Assistant Professor for the Transitional Education program at Centralia College. “She changed, both inside and out, to where she is now. Della is an example of what can happen when one is motivated and has a strong desire to achieve.”

Thanks to Della’s hard work, Max says he would most definitely consider another intern in the future as long as they were “as trustworthy and dedicated as Della.” In fact, he found the experience just as rewarding as she did. “It’s one thing for the manager of a real estate company to recruit successful, experienced brokers, who will instantly make the company money,” he says. “It’s another thing entirely to have the privilege of finding someone who wants a better life, and start them down that path, using inspiration, education and encouragement. Then to see them become successful and prosperous is an exciting and rewarding opportunity for both of us. That is true satisfaction.”

Maybe Della will get to pay if forward someday and be the mentor to someone else looking for a new career.

Centralia College’s Transitional Education program has expanded even more since 2015, with more connections within the community for both employment training and academic programs for a wide range of industries within Lewis County.

For more information about Windermere Centralia, visit their website or call 360-736-3300.

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