HOA RELATIONS COMMITTEE
HOA Welcome Committees – The Original Social Networks
The Canoa Seca Estates II’s Welcome Committee is one of many HOA success stories in Green Valley.
On April 9, 2018, Carol and Bill Copeland were presented with a “Book of Appreciation,” which contained numerous notes and letters from friends and neighbors thanking them for the warm welcome they received when they first moved into the HOA.
“Our previous HOA was friendly enough, but you two showed us—as newbies—what friendly really means.”
These and others in the collection span a period of 15 years during which time the Copelands welcomed, engaged, and invited newcomers to become members of a unique community, not only Canoa Seca Estates II, but of unincorporated Green Valley. Because they have tweaked activities over the years, a brief history of the Welcome Committee is in order.
The Copelands arrived in Green Valley in the Fall of 2002. Having never lived in an HOA before, they had decided to involve themselves in the community and Carol Copeland joined the HOA’s Architectural Committee. The Chair of the committee had wanted to start a Welcome Committee and asked Carol if she would Chair the group, which over the years consisted of two to three individuals. Of course, Bill was there to help, as he also became involved in the HOA Board of Directors and the Green Valley Council.
How fortunate that Carol was picked. She is a warm and outgoing individual. Since she and Bill had moved a great deal for his career in the Boy Scouts of America, they were used to reaching out to strangers and creating new networks. However, as they said, it was more that they reached out than that they responded to overtures from such groups as welcoming committees.
“Your open arms of welcome made us feel so special.”
Although many HOAs provide welcome packets, the Copelands did more. Within two to three days of their arrival, members of the Welcome Committee drop by and welcome the newcomers to their new home. Within two to three weeks, they sit down with the newcomers to tell them about Green Valley, their HOA, and the CC&R’s. When introducing the CC&Rs, the Committee explains that the CC& Rs provide a basic set of rules that enable neighbors to “live together in harmony,” (Bill Copeland). The Committee answers key questions, such as What color can we paint our home? and Are there any restrictions on how we landscape our property?. In an unincorporated area like Green Valley, with recourse only to County services and ordinances, the CC&Rs fulfill the need for knowledgeable and timely responses to common problems.
Within the next few months, new residents are invited to a social event with other members from the HOA. The social event is small so that people have a chance to get to know one another, and names and some information about the attendees are exchanged so that everyone gains some familiarity with each other before meeting face-to-face. In order not to accentuate differences, such as those who live up the hill, or street neighbors from neighbors on other blocks, a mixture of homeowners are invited from different areas of the HOA, from states in which the newcomers’ formerly resided, and other like-minded hobbyists or interest groups.
“We’ll never forget the first day in our house on Trogon. You two knocked on the door and after introductions and a warm welcome, we knew we were in a fantastic neighborhood.”
The Copelands are outgoing and a very social couple, as are the residents of their HOA. Over the course of the season, the HOA Social Committee holds three parties. The first one occurs the first of December when the seasonal residents return to Green Valley, the second one is in February, and the third and final one is held in April before residents leave for other homes or recreate with far flung friends and families. The average attendance at these gatherings is between 80 and 90, so Carol and Bill were quite delighted to see over 119 attendees when they were honored at the last get together this year.
Carol said that many of the newcomers were met by “dog walkers” in the neighborhood. They often were the first to notice the new arrivals and make their acquaintance. In fact, so many people in the neighborhood are greeted by dog walkers on a daily basis, the HOA published a “Doggy Directory” identifying which owners belonged to which dogs. Residents were and are more apt to remember the dog’s name rather than the owner’s name when being introduced. Needless to say the directory was a success and can now be accessed on their HOA website.
Carol also noted that the average turnover rate was about 2 to 3 houses, a year, over the past 15 years. However, one time, there were as many as 8 and last year, 17 houses were sold. The high turnover in 2017 was not due to any special circumstances, just the normal movement of retirees into Green Valley, a top rated retirement community.. At least 50% of the homes are occupied seasonally by people who do not live permanently in Green Valley and thus are not counted in the censuses taken every ten years. People within Green Valley also move to more suitable accommodations for their evolving lifestyles. In fact, two families in Canoa Seca Estates II moved west from their homes located on the east side of I-19, and both exclaimed over the welcome they received.
Major arteries, like I-19 and other borders, such as blocks in towns and cities, often create invisible, internal boundaries for residents who do not venture far from home. For example, Tucson offers a wealth of urban and cultural attractions only 20 to 30 miles from Green Valley, but many residents do not take advantage of the closeness of a major city. Nogales, Arizona, while not as large as Tucson, also offers an international urban setting and is not more than 40 miles from Green Valley. This behavior means that social activities within the HOA and within Green Valley proper are focal events in their lives.
Many family members do not understand the strength of relationships and the resources available in Green Valley. And nowhere is this more evident than with sons and daughters and other close family members caring for parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. Usually newcomers have moved away from former homes where their families still reside. When life events occur, such as the loss of a spouse or loved one, the immediate reaction of the family is bring the surviving “loved one” back home.
Canoa Seca II Estates has a very effective support network and even within weeks welcoming neighbors can provide help assist recent widows and widowers, whose long-term plans with their spouses have been ended prematurely. This is what happened to a couple who recently moved into the HOA. Their daughter urged her mother to come back home to where the family could “take care” of her. Instead her mother invited her daughter to a social event where she introduced people who had helped her since she moved into the HOA. Her daughter’s murmured words, “I understand,” underlines the appreciation most families feel when they realize their parents or other “loved ones” have all the caring support they need to enjoy their retirement.
“For some people, volunteering is about giving. But for the likes of you, it’s a way of living.”
Some outcomes of welcoming committees are not as obvious, but are probably even more important. By welcoming newcomers and making them part of the HOA and the larger Green Valley community, the Welcome Committee instills a pride of ownership and a responsibility for making the community as great a community as they can. As an unincorporated community, that means that newcomers can volunteer for, not only charitable organizations, but also assume civic responsibility for issues that affect the wellbeing of the community. The Green Valley Council is just such an organization where volunteers are necessary to raise a community voice about the needs, wants, and wishes of Green Valley residents.
Equally important is the basic role that a HOA Board of Directors plays in maintaining an effective and efficient HOA, one that contributes to the voice of the community. As Bill Copeland pointed out, their HOA does not lack for volunteers to hold Board or Committee positions because their neighborhood cares.
The Green Valley Council has 75 Homeowners Association Members, a little over 80 percent of the total number of HOAs in Green Valley. Each member HOA elects a Representative and Alternate to represent the HOA at the monthly meeting of the Green Valley Council’s Board of Representatives. Dues for belonging to the Green Valley Council are $ 9.50 annually, per households in member HOAs.
FEATURED HOA FOR JANUARY 2018: Desert Hills III East
The HOA Committee plans to feature an HOA on a regular basis:
Desert Hills III East, a small friendly community of 91 homes, enjoys picturesque views of the Santa Rita Mountains. It is bordered on three sides by large arroyos and hosts ample natural space with mature trees, wide varieties of shrubs, and cacti. Wildlife sightings are frequent and sunsets are vivid. The association features attached and stand-alone single level homes that offer low-maintenance stucco exteriors and main-level living. Homes have either garages or carports and some have golf cart garages as well.
An active board and members work together on committees to continuously improve the community and landscape. HOA-sponsored social events include themed parties and monthly luncheons where neighbors can get to know each other. This being a smaller HOA, it is possible to find a true sense of community.
Nearby the GVR Desert Hills Recreation Center offers meeting rooms; an auditorium and stage; a catering kitchen; art, lapidary, and ceramics studios; a fitness room and outdoor pool; four tennis courts; and shuffle board.
One of the purposes of the HOA Relations Committee is to improve and facilitate communication between homeowners, HOAs and the Green Valley Council. The Council also provides dispute resolution services to help solve controversies between HOAs.