For the past 15 years, my job has been to foster a sense of community. However, when the pandemic hit this year, I was faced with a completely new challenge that left me pondering: how do you nurture a thriving sense of community — while everyone’s stuck at home?
As the current Lifestyle Director at a residential agrihood in Palm Beach County called Arden, looking for solutions to our COVID circumstances allowed me to better understand what really makes us feel like we’re part of a community and how we can foster that feeling in any circumstance.
Here are three easy ideas to start:
- Dedicate Physical Spaces for Socially Distant Connections
While your neighbors may not be able to connect as a group due to COVID restrictions, having a space devoted to sharing community moments is important. For example, at Arden we started a Community Mural. Residents were encouraged through our E-Newsletter and social media to stop by and color a section, and the final product was displayed by the community clubhouse. The final message read “We’ll Beat this Together,” but the mural itself was communicating that despite being physically separated, our community can come together to create something beautiful. It said: while we are socially distant, we are all still connected.
- Use Social Media to Stay in Touch
Encouraging online activity within your residential community is a great way to bring people together. There are multiple platforms that work well for this, such as Facebook group pages, NextDoor or even an active group chat. Another good way to foster connections with your neighbors on social media is by creating activities that residents can participate in virtually. For example, at Arden we started a campaign called Lifestyle Busy Kits — boxes full of family-fun activities sent to interested homes. Each month has a new flavor of fun, and residents are encouraged to share their experiences with the kits on Arden’s Facebook page, which helps create a feeling of sharing the fun together.
Create Ways to Spread Kindness and Show AppreciationDuring these trying times, it’s important residents have opportunities to express their appreciation for each other, even if they can’t do it in person. That’s why at Arden we’ve created a Community Together campaign to help front line workers living in our community. Neighbors are able to sign up to be either a receiver or a giver. Each week, givers deliver a small token of their appreciation to a front-line worker’s porch. Whether it’s homemade cards, flowers, a gift card, or treats — both givers and receivers get to express their appreciation and enjoy these small moments of kindness, which will long outlive the current pandemic.
Today, community may feel like an abstract notion from a past life. But with a few cost-effective projects, we can work to develop strong connections between neighbors and keep ‘community’ as strong as ever.
About the author
Donald Smith is a Lifestyle Director at Arden, an award-winning residential agrihood in Palm Beach County, FL. He is an expert in recreation and leisure activities management and works to help residents get the most out of their community – and themselves – when it comes to living a full, healthy life.