Community associations are developing innovative ways to increase community spirit while observing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are facilitating support between residents, some are backing initiatives to assist healthcare workers and small businesses, and others are organizing activities to provide moments of levity.

Reaching out to those in need and strengthening connections are part of the culture at Harvest, a 1,200-acre large-scale community under development in Argyle, Texas. Residents have donated money, food, snacks, and water to staff at hospitals and clinics in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, says Page Austin, Harvest’s lifestyle manager. One woman recently started a community project to sew face masks; more than 5,500 have been donated to healthcare workers as of mid-April.

Neighbors also are stepping up to help one another by picking up groceries, offering toilet paper and other supplies that have become difficult to find in local stores, and helping with yard work. Austin notes that a neighbor mowed the lawn of a couple in the community who are both nurses as a way to thank them for their work, and residents who are teachers have been helping parents with schooling their children at home.

Harvest, being developed by Dallas-based Hillwood Communities, is anchored by commercial and community farms. It is the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s first “agrihood”—a growing trend of communities in the U.S. that offer a farm-to-table lifestyle.

Produce from the farms and residents’ gardens, as well as canned goods, are being donated to the North Texas Food Bank. A group of residents has been organizing the donation collections and drop-offs, notes Austin.

To keep residents engaged and entertained, Austin created a digital activity calendar that includes exercise classes, cooking lessons, remote meetings for different clubs, and activities for children such as book readings, arts and crafts, and virtual field trips.

In addition, residents have been encouraged to spend time outdoors while observing social distancing. The community’s trails remain open. Residents with children are going on “zoofaris” to spot stuffed animals placed in windows or on front porches, and some families are demonstrating their creative side by painting decorative rocks or writing messages on pavement with chalk.

Austin has been diligently promoting events and opportunities on the community’s social media platforms. She has spotlighted neighbors who are essential workers and shared photos of families spending time on their front porches. She also has sent handwritten notes to residents who have celebrated personal milestones—all as a way to keep community spirit up during the pandemic.

“Keeping social media active, sharing what our neighbors are doing, and planning virtual events has helped keep everyone connected and strengthened our community bond,” she says.

>>Read more about how Harvest offers a fresh approach to homeowners craving connection and a farming lifestyle with a modern twist in the May/June issue of Common GroundTM magazine, available online soon. 

>>Access CAI’s free COVID-19 resources, FAQs, and best practices.

Kiara Candelaria

Kiara Candelaria

Kiara is associate editor for CAI’s print and digital publications. Before joining CAI, she worked for a trade media magazine focusing on the oil refining sector. Kiara also worked as an internal communications intern at the Library of Congress in 2015 and was a student journalist while attending college in Puerto Rico, where she was born and raised. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in information and journalism from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, in 2014 and earned a master’s degree in communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., in 2020. Kiara currently resides in Arlington, Va., and enjoys watching movies and television shows, playing videogames, and spoiling her cat Kyoshi.

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