By Gerry Batte Russell
Giving back to the community
McKinney got lucky when the Cairo family moved here several years ago. The family exemplifies everything that McKinney offers – a sense of family/community. The Cairos were immediately drawn to the beauty and “uniqueness” of the community and they weren’t shy about jumping in and becoming a big part of it.
The Cairo family includes daughters and their families and it is truly a Catholic Italian family. Jim’s father’s family lived in Italy and his father was the first of the children to be born in the United States. Jim’s mother was born in Italy and came to the United States when she was 10 years old. She spoke fluent Tuscan Italian and later learned English.
As an adult, Jim (pictured at right) visited his mother’s home in Ogliastro Cilentro, Italy, which is known to be the home of some of the best olive oil in Italy. When he was there, he discovered a family library of hand-written books from the 1400 to 1500’s. Jim never saw his father’s village but it is located on Mount Cairo in Italy. And to further establish his Italian heritage, Jim was able to find records of both sets of his grandparents on the Ellis Island website.
Jim stayed true to his Italian heritage. His wife Anne is also Italian – both her parents were born in the United States but her grandparents were all born in Italy. Jim’s hope is to someday get the younger generations of the family to Italy for a visit so they can absorb the richness of their heritage.
Jim and his family came to Texas from Rhode Island. Jim received his Bachelor of Science from Bryant University in Rhode Island. After graduating from college, he spent seven years in finance and then 14 years as an operations manager for a construction equipment company. The next 10 years, he was a partner in a wholesale costume jewelry business and before leaving Rhode Island, he spent years in real estate development, taking raw land and developing subdivisions/communities and selling the lots to home builders. Anne had a 33-year career with what is now known as Verizon.
Today, Jim and his daughter Kristen Vartian are partners in the real estate industry. They work together as a team for Ebby Halliday, REALTOR(S) in McKinney, and that is how I first met them – I was managing the office.
From the day they came on board they were a part of what is known as the “Ebby Family.” No matter the project: helping with the United Way Campaign, Relay for Life, Salvation Army, or any of the office events or gatherings, Jim was there. He would load tables, set-up booths, walk the walk or run the run.
Today, it is the same. And to add to an already good thing, Jim brings the family when it comes to giving back to the community. For those who know, Anne is one of the best cooks in McKinney and she is always there with treats for any occasion or project.
Jim is most proud of his participation in the McKinney Kiwanis Club. He likes the fact that there is a good mix of generations and gender in its membership. He is always helping with all the projects because he truly believes the organization’s projects are worthwhile.
There is a twinkle in his eye when he talks about the joy of the children being rewarded for good grades and perfect attendance through the “Terrific Kids” program. And, he is especially proud of the project to build wheelchair ramps for people who might otherwise be shut-in.
He and other Kiwanis members personally construct the ramps for absolutely no cost to the recipient. The organization also raises funds through their Pancake Breakfasts to be able to donate to organizations such as CASA and the Food Pantry.
Like so many who give back to the community, Jim says that he receives much more than he ever gives.
Gerry Batte Russell of McKinney writes about people who enjoy giving back to the community. She is a Licensed Texas Real Estate Broker, and she is well-known for her work in the community as Manager of the McKinney Ebby Halliday REALTORS’ office
(July 1999 to Nov 2010 with approximately 90 REALTORS and staff.) Gerry served as President of the Collin County Association of REALTORS (2006).