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FORT WORTH-The founder of Renaissance Cultural Center in Fort Worth has been selected from a field of 300 nationwide for a Good Neighbor award by the National Association of Realtors.

James N. Austin Jr., with the Austin Co. Commercial Real Estate in Fort Worth, was one of five nationwide to receive the REALTORS Magazine honor. Austin and his wife, Gloria, set up the center in 1991 in Fort Worth’s Evans Avenue neighborhood, picking a vacant grocery store in an inner city section of mostly minority residents. The center’s program includes college scholarships, which have exceeded $200,000 in the last eight years. The center also hosts events like film festivals, poetry readings and talent competitions. To help raise funds, the Austins sponsor an African-American annual rodeo with a six-city tour in Texas and Oklahoma. Austin also is known locally for founding the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame.

“I’ve been working hard for a long time to make Fort Worth a better place to live,” Austin said in a press release. “That’s really the reason behind the RCC and the museum. I just want to keep on being a good neighbor.”

The Good Neighbor award, now in its fourth year, honors realtors who make exceptional contributions to improve the quality of life in their communities. Winners were based on the depth and impact of their volunteer contribution.

This year’s other winners are Jim Bess Sr. with Blue Chip Real Estate of Apple Valley, CA, who has given Christmas gifts to more than 53,000 poor children; Claudia Deprez of Illustrated Properties Real Estate Inc. in West Palm Beach, FL, who inspired her community to reclaim a neighborhood from crime and drugs; James Pacheco with Prudential California Realty in Castro Valley, CA, who helps the elderly and disabled make necessary repairs to homes; and Bobbie Tugwell of ERA Stirling Properties in Baton Rouge, LA, who is a passionate hospice volunteer. The winners will receive a $7,500 grant in the name of their community project, a crystal trophy and the right to use the Good Neighbor Awards logo on their Web site and promotional materials. Another five realtors received honorable mentions and $1,500 awards.

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