Contributed by Tim Broms and Sharlene Rhea, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM 

In keeping with CAI’s emphasis on building community, the CAI Minnesota Chapter board renewed its commitment to social responsibility in the summer of 2023 by launching a new community outreach initiative. Former chapter board president Shaun Zavadsky, AMS, PCAM, of FirstService Residential, introduced the effort by chartering a new community outreach committee. The committee found several ways to layer social responsibility into the chapter’s signature event of the year: the annual gala & vision awards.  

Examples of the chapter’s social responsibility in action focused on three key areas: 

  • In lieu of a traditional Toys for Tots drive, the committee elected to conduct a drive for Gifts for Seniors, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit providing donated gifts to isolated seniors. Gala attendees filled four large collection boxes. The chapter is proud to have contributed to the 2023 drive, which touched a record 7,049 isolated older adults this past holiday season.  
  • New to the 2023 chapter event, we solicited sponsors to donate floral centerpieces that were delivered to local senior living communities the following day. We spread cheer to more than 20 local senior residences.  
  • The committee also received approval from the chapter board to donate $10 from each gala ticket to a local nonprofit. A total of $3,600 was donated to My Very Own Bed, another Minneapolis-based nonprofit. Founded in 2014, the organization provides new beds to children moving into stable housing. The nonprofit has provided more than 6,000 beds and bedding to children ages 2–17 in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs. 

In just a few short months, the chapter committee has made a difference in the lives of isolated seniors and local youth. The committee has an ambitious agenda for 2024 and will continue to seek opportunities to tackle pressing issues affecting the local community. The goal is to wrap diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives into the outreach efforts.   

Memorial Club Townhouses, a 50+ year old townhome community located in Houston, is prioritizing social responsibility through a neighborly assistance program. 

As each year had gone by, many community members began noticing an important but often overlooked need. Many residents are alone with no family nearby. Who do they go to when they need some help?  

Recently, manager Sharlene Rhea had a conversation with a resident that prompted her to act. The resident said, “How will anyone know if anything happened to me? I have no family at all.” As a result, the neighborly assistance program was born.  

Interest in the program has been amazing. More than 15 volunteers initially agreed to help neighbors in need, and it is now up to roughly 25. ”

The help provided through the program may be considered minor, such as hanging a picture or climbing a step stool to change a light bulb. Other forms of assistance volunteers may provide include going to the grocery store to pick up a few items or driving them to appointments.  Volunteers also keep long-distance family informed and they help coordinate day trips to various landmarks within 150 miles offered at no charge by the county. 

There have been challenges forming the program. “We had to consider risk and liability,” explains Rhea. “That means tweaking what kind of help we could offer. For example, instead of picking up prescriptions for others, volunteers provide transportation assistance.” The committee also discussed a vetting process for volunteers and for those asking for help, so as to ensure that no one faces any risks participating. 

“My advice to communities considering forming a committee to help neighbors is to follow your intuition,” says Rhea.

Tim Broms is the executive director of CAI-MN. Sharlene Rhea is the manager of Memorial Club Townhomes in Houston.

>>Read Building Community online and purchase the new edition of the book from CAI Press—now available in print and digital.

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