Newsmakers Making A Difference: Victor Ciardelli, Guaranteed Rate Foundation

Lisa Fielding
October 30, 2018 - 7:40 am

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- You could call Victor Ciardelli, a home grown success story.

"I started in the mortgage business back in 1992 after selling commercial real estate and a big deal fell through," Ciardelli said. "I grew my first company for about eight years. It was kind of a training ground mainly for me. Before that I was just broke as can be."

Born and raised in Oak Brook, he founded Guaranteed Rate in June of 2000.

"We didn't have a lot of capital, we didn't have much. I started with about 20 employees at this same location that we are here today on Ravenswood," he said.

Eighteen years later, Guaranteed Rate is one of the largest mortgage companies in the country and its logo adorns the outside of the Chicago White Sox ballpark on the South Side. 

"Going through all the ups and downs that I had from the time that I started in 1992 with nothing and kinda building up and taking the organization and almost going out of business with the capital that we had, put me in a great position for the shift in the housing market and the crash," he recalls. "Now we bounce around between the fifth and seventh largest mortgage lender in the country."

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

In 2012, the Guaranteed Rate Foundation was born.

"It's always been in my DNA to give back." he said. "The original strategy was to have a safety net for our employees in a time of need."

Soon enough, it was a way to help others who find themselves in financial straits like Caitlyn, 30, a single mother who fled an abusive marriage.

"I met my husband when I was 17. It started out as verbal abuse and soon escalated into physical abuse," she recalls. "I knew I had to leave. It was now or never. I had to get out for the sake of my three little girls."

She found herself without a home, without a way to provide for her daughters. She said she found out about the foundation through a local shelter and applied for a grant, that would help her with rent, clothes and other expenses.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"We can't change their life, but we can give them a chance to breathe, a chance to get their bearings, which was what the hope was," Ciardelli said.

The Guaranteed Rate Foundation has donated nearly $2,500,000 since 2012, including $276,542 to Domestic Violence Survivors in 2018.

"Every penny that goes into the foundation that is raised, goes to somebody in need of help. It's always for an individual and not a charity. My employees are incredibly generous people. They are a big part of this fundraising," he said.

Today, Ciardelli meets Cailyn for the first time.

"I can't tell you how grateful I am, how much you've helped me," she told Ciardelli as she gives him a big hug.  She's living proof of his company and his employees' philanthropy.

"I now am in a great area, an area where my kids are receiving the best possible education they can get. It's safe too," she said.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

For Caitlyn, the foundation was her lifeline.

"I have a job, I have my independence back, I have my freedom, I'm more confident and I owe it all to Victor and all the members of the Guaranteed Rate Foundation," she said, holding back tears. 

Ciardelli said giving back is what drives him. He only hopes to set an example for others.

"We've donated to CPS and helped renovate Personal Learning Centers, we've donated hundreds of pounds of food in our annual food drive, and now I'm hoping to find a partner to help the homeless," he said. "The hope is that other companies and other CEOs do the same thing. It's important to give back and be a part of your community."

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"I'm so profoundly grateful for this grant. I never thought I'd get help this fast. I'm still healing. I'm still going through some anxiety, but I take it day by day. I'm not sure what I would've done without this grant," Caitlyn shakes her head.

"I love it. I'm incredibly excited to see where the foundation is going. The sky is the limit," Ciardelli said. 

Guaranteed Rate will be hosting a food drive from Oct. 29 to Nov. 30. Everything received will be donated to a local charity. To help, please bring non-perishable food and personal care items to your local GR branch. To learn more about the foundation or apply for a grant, log onto  www.guaranteedrate.com/foundation/request-assistance

As WBBM celebrates its 50th anniversary as Newsradio, this year we’ll be honoring 50 Newsmakers making a difference in the community.  Listen for reports each Tuesday.

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