She was only 5, but Tami Pardee clearly remembers the day her mother divided her playthings into two piles and asked her which one she wanted to keep and which to give away. She then helped her mom deliver the toys to a needy family in the neighborhood. That early lesson in charity made a lasting impression: Tami, 43, now a top-selling Realtor in Venice, CA, donates a hefty portion of her firm’s revenue to local charities, amounting to more than $650,000 since 2009. “If I’d been born rich, I would have been a philanthropist,” she says. “I’ve worked hard to succeed, and I’m seizing the opportunity to do something positive with my money.”
Shock to the System
Tami’s parents were both home builders, and she practically grew up on construction sites in and around Beaverton, OR. After earning an undergraduate degree in business, she became a project manager in Los Angeles, overseeing the building of senior housing units. Tami was on a job in 2001 when she noticed something clouding her vision. The diagnosis was devastating—optic neuritis caused by multiple sclerosis. She was prescribed steroids for the eye inflammation and another drug to slow the formation of brain lesions that can lead to tremors, slurred speech and paralysis. “But the doctor couldn’t give a prognosis—that’s the scary thing about MS,” says Tami. “I had many sleepless nights.”
Despite her fears, Tami forged ahead. She married her boyfriend, Michael Pardee, a visual effects producer, and graduated from an MBA program at Loyola Marymount University. After giving birth to daughter Taylor, she began looking for a flexible work schedule and became a part-time real estate agent, racking up $33 million in sales her first year. She launched Pardee Properties in 2007, setting up offices not far from her Venice home. The area was an incongruous mix—chic stores, artist studios and upscale housing, plus gang turf and homeless people on the beach. “There’s a saying about Venice as the place ‘where art meets crime,’ ” Tami explains. “I wanted to do something for the entire community.” Two years later she founded Giving Back, allocating 10%
of net proceeds from each sale to the charity of her client’s choice. Coeur d’Alene Elementary School and the Venice Family Clinic were the first beneficiaries, and the list has since grown to include dozens of others, among them a women’s shelter and a gang intervention program.
Tami is passing down her philanthropic spirit to daughters Taylor, 11, and Bailey, 8, and twins Tanner and Jack, 3. Animal rescue has become the family’s pet project. One Saturday a month is adoption day on the sidewalk outside Pardee Properties, with the kids watching over animals from a local shelter. They also set up a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to charity. “You hear all the time that to give is to receive, and it’s true,” says Tami. “Being able to help others helps me be in the moment, which you have to do with MS. I’m living my best life.”