It's All About Teamwork
In the fall of 2012 when CHP took over the management of Parkside Garden in downtown Ocala, Florida, we faced a community beleaguered by a history of crime and violence, low occupancy rates, and a floundering resident services program. “We understood the community was going to need some TLC and a lot of hard work,” explained Director of Resident Services Angie Roberts- Dobbins, “but we knew we were up to the challenge if we could assemble the right team of employees.”
Fortunately, skilled and dedicated property management staff members were already in place at Parkside, “...they [Property Manager Janice Smith, Assistant Property Manager Deborah Goffe, and Maintenance Supervisor Anton Davis] just needed some guidance and direction,” said Vice President of Property Managment Scott Reithel. Valuable staff support was also provided by Regional Property Manager John Skaro and Regional Resident Services Coordinator Jessica Overstreet. The final piece of the team puzzle came into place when Diane McElveen was hired as Resident Services Coordinator.
According to Reithel, CHP began work immediately to turn the struggling community around. Clear management policies and procedures were introduced to the residents and a partnership was formed with the local police department to curb illegal activity. Property management employees implemented a marketing plan to attract more stable tenants and our maintenance staff was trained to prepare apartments to meet CHP’s quality standards. CHP’s resident services employees set out to improve relationships between their department, other property staff, and the residents so that they could more effectively deliver quality programming to the community.
In just over six months since CHP’s arrival, Reithel and Roberts-Dobbins report that the big changes have taken place at Parkside Garden. “The property’s occupancy is currently at 100 percent, services are booming, and people at CHP—as well as in the greater Ocala community—are talking about the great things going on at Parkside.”
CHP Board Member Scott Hackmeyer, who has been personally and professionaly involved with the Parkside Garden community for twenty years, spoke with pride about Parkside’s renaissance, stating that the one-time “hotbed of drugs, guns, prostitution, and violence” is now a place he feels comfortable recommending to people looking for a decent home for their families. “Parkside used to be a place people avoided. Now there’s a waiting list to live there!” he exclaimed.
Roberts-Dobbins said the key to Parkside’s success is its winning employees. “When you meet the team of folks assembled at Parkside, it is clear that they are the reason for the positive changes. They understand teamwork and the importance of building strong
relationships with each other and their residents.” So impressive is our staff in Ocala that Reithel declared, “The relationship which property management and resident services has established at Parkside is one that should always be replicated across CHP’s portfolio.”
Smith, who is also a local pastor, said that she and her coworkers all have varied backgrounds and experiences. “With all these different chefs in the kitchen we had to come to some type of common ground to make this team work. What makes our team strong is everyone working for what’s best for Parkside. We know it’s not about our individual wants and needs—it’s always about what’s going to help Parkside be better and stronger.”
Goffe agreed that taking the time to build relationships with her colleagues has been critical to their success. “We literally sat down, ate a real good lunch, and just talked so we could get to know who we are working with. That really makes everything so much easier. When you learn little things about your coworkers early on those little snags in the road of building a great team are really avoided,” said the single mother of seven.
Weekly meetings also help keep things operating smoothly at Parkside. Said Smith, “We understand that all of Parkside’s issues are our issues. Even though the meeting minutes break the issues into categories such as maintenance, eviction prevention, vacancies, etc., we know they belong to us all. Our knowledge of the property and residents helps everyone.” As an example, McElveen described a situation in which a maintenance worker confidentially shared with her his concerns of possible domestic abuse in a resident’s apartment. Resident Services was able to follow up with a wellness check and provide the resident with information and resources for victims of violence.
Smith offered another example of teamwork: “Before a resident receives his keys, I go over all the rules...the dos and don’ts. Then I send the resident right across the hall to meet with Ms. Diane in Resident Services. There, she has the opportunity to share with the new tenants all the great programs we offer and how CHP can be helpful to their success.”
The Parkside staff was quick to point out, however, that it is not always perfect. “We of course have our difficulties but we continue to work on them,” stated Goffe. If anything ever becomes too hard, we sit down and eat and talk about it. Food always works! Everybody should put that in their routine, even if it’s once a month that you have lunch or coffee together. After all, if you can’t sit down and eat with your co-workers how do you expect to truly work together?”
Hackmeyer predicted that CHP’s commitment to Parkside and the city of Ocala will only lead to more positive changes in the future. “Now that Parkside has cleaned up its act, conversations are starting to take place among business and community leaders about developing other parts of the neighborhood. That is not something people would have dared to consider not too long ago.”