Story By: Susan Lee
Photos By: Nelson LaPorte
We all do it. We meet someone and our minds immediately create a perception of that person based on their job, clothing, voice, appearance or even their car.
If you meet Pooler real estate agent Trisha Cook, you might assume that her polished look and outgoing personality are a result of a privileged childhood or at the very least a traditional upbringing. The truth is she succeeded in spite of her childhood, which was one of poverty, neglect and abuse. In fact, her earliest memory is of a social worker checking her body for bruises when she was just four years old.
Trisha grew up in and spent her childhood with a mother who was mentally ill and a stepfather who was a drug abuser. “It was a bad life, but I don’t blame anyone and I’m not mad,” says Trisha, “I’m happy now and know that if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I often tell my team at work that whenever you feel like you’re about to have a breakdown, you’re probably about to have a breakthrough with something bigger and better heading your way.”
She remembers walking across a busy highway by herself at the age of six, wearing one of the only two dresses she owned, just to get to church. “I knew that I was supposed to go and no one was going to take me so I just went,” she recalls. “I wanted a better life.”
That life she envisioned became a reality when, at the age of 12, her mother went to jail and she was rescued and taken in by her aunt in Savannah. “She pretty much saved my life and I consider her my mom for all intents and purposes,” says Trisha. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Trisha graduated from Beach High School and then went on to study marketing and management at Armstrong University, Savannah State University and Valdosta State. When she was just 20 years old, she became pregnant by her boyfriend of five years. He walked out on the relationship, an action that would devastate most women, but the thought of being a single mother just made Trisha more determined to succeed.
I “ I try to excel in everything I do,” she says. “And I recognize that some of that is me trying to prove my worth to people because of where I came from.” She worked several jobs, including waiting tables and bartending, and it wasn’t long before Trisha built a home for herself and her son, Jordan. She sold the home several years later and made enough money to pay off all her debt, including student loans and her car, and put $40,000 toward their next home.
“It takes a special person to overcome such a catastrophic childhood and so many serious obstacles,” said Sherry Murat, Jordan’s grandmother and a real estate agent for more than 30 years. “I’ve often told her that she has nothing to prove to anyone. You have to admire someone who’s faced such adversity and succeeded all on her own.”
Trisha began her real estate career at the suggestion of her aunt. “She said she thought I’d make a great real estate agent and offered to pay for my school,” she said. “It was a rough start, because I got my license in 2007, just as the market was crashing. It took me 7 months to sell my first house and it was a $60,000 trailer. But just four months later I was able to quit bartending on the weekends and focus on real estate full time.”
In 2012, she formed the Trisha Cook Team at Keller Williams Realty in Pooler. She and the rest of the group of experienced agents now sell more than 200 homes a year.
Trisha also makes time to give back to her community. Her realty group supports the Homes for Heroes program by donating a portion of their commissions to help people who serve the community (police, firefighters, military, nurses, teachers) buy homes. Last year they donated more than $100,000. Trisha is also an active volunteer with her son’s band boosters, the Pooler Chamber of Commerce, Savannah Board of Realtors charities and the Business Network International volunteer group. In addition, she runs the “Cooler in Pooler” Facebook page, which she started in 2009 and now has more than 15,000 followers.
When she’s not working or volunteering, Trisha enjoys spending time with her family. Seven years ago, she reconnected with a high school friend, Allen Hayes, and three years ago the couple was married. Allen is also a realtor and a member of the realty group. They have three children: Trisha’s son, Jordan, now 17, and Allen’s two children, Megan, 19, and Matthew, 17. The family also includes two sweet terrier and poodle mixes, Copper and Chipper.
“It’s all I ever really wanted,” she said. “A family, a home. Everyone comes to our house for Thanksgiving or family gatherings.”
Trisha also enjoys traveling with her family and spending time out on their boat. She said she would also like to become SCUBA certified, take dance lessons and perhaps learn Spanish.
And to keep herself inspired and motivated, she collects quotes. “I have a little notebook where I write down every quote that I love,” she said.
One of her favorites: “Your past doesn’t define you unless you still live there”.