Community Associations Find Creative Solutions to Issues Presented by Pandemic
As Covid-19 arrived in the United States in early 2020, people were forced to make adjustments to their usual activities seemingly overnight. For community associations, new meeting formats, safety concerns, and revamping community activities took center stage. We at CAMS are immeasurably impressed with the resilience our communities have shown and their willingness to embrace change.
Adapting to Virtual Meetings
As states began to limit in-person gatherings in hopes of slowing the spread of Covid-19, traditional board and annual meeting setups essentially went out the window. In their place came virtual meetings on platforms like Zoom and Skype – and, for many, these technologies came with a learning curve. However, so many of our board members expressed such willingness to learn new communication technologies so they could continue conducting the business of their communities. To aid in this effort, CAMS created a "Zoom Academy" – a training program that teaches staff the ins and outs of Zoom so they may then be able to train board members on the platform. For many, virtual meetings have been a huge success – they've been able to increase meeting efficiency, participants are able to pay more attention to the matters at hand, and easily share documents with the group.
Implementing New Safety Precautions
The contagious nature of Covid-19 created a need for community associations to implement safety procedures both for the sake of complying with state-mandated restrictions as well as keeping members as healthy as possible. In some high-rise condo buildings, signs were put up requiring masks and hand sanitizing stations were put throughout the common areas. Many associations began to require masks in all common areas as well as conducting extra cleaning procedures in those areas.
Some associations employed "Signup Genius," an online scheduling program which allowed members to reserve time at amenities like fitness centers. This made it easy for residents to find a time to safely use facilities without coming into contact with others and created efficiency by allowing people to select their own time slot. Many say overall communication has improved in their communities as it became more necessary than ever to keep residents informed of numerous changes being made in the community.
People were stuck at home for most of 2020. Though it certainly had some upsides, it also led to boredom and feelings of isolation for many, especially for those who were unable to utilize the amenities they once had regular access to in their communities.
Many of CAMS' communities came up with creative ways to keep members engaged while still following social distancing guidelines. Some of those included:
- Setting up outdoor movie theaters on their clubhouse lawns
- Conducting virtual and outdoor exercise classes
- Coordinating food trucks, parking lot events, and trunk-or-treats at Halloween
- Determined to spread a little holiday cheer, one community set up different drive by stations around the neighborhood to allow residents to experience some much-needed cheer – there was a caroling station, a coloring station for children, an educational station where participants could learn about different seasonal holidays, and even a visit with Santa where children could drop off a letter
As we all continue to endure the radical changes that have been made to everyday life, it's apparent that safety and social distancing, while important, are only part of the equation to keep residents safe, happy, and engaged. The creativity shown by CAMS' community managers and board members has been staggering and undoubtedly helped association members make it through a rough year.
Though the landscape of communication and in-person events will continue to change, CAMS is confident that our team and the wonderful communities we manage will continue to adapt and keep striving to make their communities the best they can be.
In the Wake of Tragedy, CAMS’ Communities Band Together
In mid-February 2021, one of CAMS' communities – Ocean Ridge Plantation in Ocean Isle Beach, NC – was ravaged by an unexpected late-night tornado. This storm resulted in loss of life, injuries, and homes being severely damaged or, in some cases, completely destroyed. Though we along the coast are quite familiar with storm damage, it never gets any easier to see the destruction to both personal lives and property.
However, as it is in many cases, tragedy allowed the true nature of people to shine through. Within less than 24 hours, a GoFundMe page was created to raise funds for the residents of Ocean Ridge Plantation and its initial fundraising goal was surpassed within a day. And, as you can imagine, it wasn't just locals who were donating. Many residents of CAMS' associations across North and South Carolina, probably never even having heard of Ocean Isle Beach, immediately stepped up to donate towards the relief effort. CAMS staff near and far were also touched by the great need of this community and eagerly gave whatever they could towards the cause.
When tragedy hits, leadership is needed – the victims of such have enough on their plates without having to figure out what to do next. Though a strong tornado is a bit more foreign to eastern NC, we know hurricanes and we handle them well. That experience led our team to immediately jump into action to assist those in Ocean Ridge Plantation. Community managers, regional vice presidents, and even the company president made it to the scene as quickly as possible to lend a helping hand wherever needed – helping clean up debris, distributing supplies, finding out what homeowners needed assistance with, and simply listening to victims tell their stories.
Though no one could have predicted this tornado, it has, as with most disasters, made the resilience and generosity of CAMS' communities all-the-more apparent. With dedicated leaders and strong, determined homeowners and board members, we've been able to see the best in people and all come together as a team.
The residents of Ocean Ridge Plantation still have a long road to recovery ahead of them – and the CAMS team will be beside them, providing guidance and assistance every step of the way.
Mike Stonestreet, CMCA, PCAM, AMS, is Founder/Co-Owner of CAMS (Community Association Management Services). CAMS began in 1991 with Stonestreet and a few employees in a small office in Wilmington but has since grown to over 300 employees serving eight regions across North and South Carolina.
His current role at CAMS focuses on mergers and acquisitions, culture alignment and high-level business relationships. Stonestreet is an active member of the NC Chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) and has spent time on their board of directors, serving as the chapter President in 2019.