Thirty-seven years ago when Mary Ann Parker moved to Heritage Village in Southbury, Connecticut, she bought her condominium from the builder. She was a new resident, but so was everyone else. It was, she describes, an entirely new situation in which people believed they were not buying just homes, but "a way of life." They were pioneers who, according to the Heritage Village website, "were entrusted with the problems of the organization and management, for which no precedent existed, and operational responsibilities, for which they had no experience." The website lauds those early Villagers who "brought vision, integrity and imagination to a complex community structure — and made it work."
It was, back then, a situation that will never exist again, Parker points out. From the first time a home was resold, the community became two: old residents and new residents. And in the many years since that shift, the Village has created a multi-faceted program to integrate and orient new residents which could serve as a model for others.
Heritage Village is an active adult community that is home to more than 4,000 people in 2,580 residences. One of its greatest strengths – the immensity of the community, its seven shared recreational facilities, and its over 100 activity groups – can be overwhelming and confusing to newcomers, Parker says.
Newcomer's Committee Formed
"The executive secretary used to give out some information to people when they moved in, but it became clear that they needed more help and extra information," says Parker. Just two years after Parker moved in, she launched a Newcomer's Committee, which took on the task of giving new residents the knowledge and tools they would need to adjust to their new community.
"We made up a kit," Parker explains, "with information about the government of the village and how it's organized. It also includes forms like a maintenance request, a variance for exterior work, and a list of all the clubs with their contact information."