The most wonderful time of the year can come with a lot of stress! Don’t don your Scrooge hat just yet. Whether you live in a Buckhead high-rise or a Lake Lanier active adult community, it’s easy to infuse your community with some holiday spirit! We’ve collected guidelines to help make the holidays sweeter for others and to manage holiday décor in diverse communities. We’ve got some tips to make planning yours easier. When the work is shared, it’s easier for everyone to enjoy happy holidays. 

Crowdsource Holiday Cheer for Those in Need

For many people, giving to those who are less fortunate is part of the joy of the holiday season. Get your community together and take on a charitable project as a group! You can do more as a team, with small contributions and efforts from everyone. Help make the holidays happier for others while you increase your sense of community.
Check out what some communities in Georgia are doing to make the holiday season brighter for others:
  • The Veterans Club at Cresswind at Lake Lanier holds food drives for a veteran-designated food bank, as well as a clothing drive that helps provide suits and dress clothes to veterans.
  • Viewpoint, a high-rise in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, conducts an annual toy drive for Toys for Tots. They also do a food drive for local food pantries throughout the year.
  • Spire, also a high-rise Buckhead, conducts a winter coat drive each year. 
Food and toy drives are always appreciated, but there are other local charitable activities your community association can support. Consider adopting a family though the Salvation Army, Soldiers’ Angels or a local women’s shelter. Don’t forget about four-legged friends!  Any animal shelter in your area will appreciate food, blankets, bowls, cat litter and toys any time of year. Even just over tipping the servers at your holiday party can make their holidays a lot brighter.

Decking the Halls While Maintaining Your Sanity

Holiday decorations can be festive and fun, imparting cheer to everyone in the neighborhood…. or they can be overbearing and tacky. How can you balance that in your community? What about the neighbor with the 10-foot-high inflatable Santa and sleigh, complete with reindeer, in their front yard or the one whose bright lights illuminate your windows later than you’d like? It’s hard to set decorating policy without coming across as the Grinch, but it can be done.
Let’s talk about common areas of the community first. In high-rise buildings, the lobby and other community areas are where most holiday décor is set up. In gated communities and other HOAs, you may choose to decorate your gate house, front entrance, clubhouse or other common areas. Residents should not decorate common areas without the permission of the association board.
If your community has chosen to decorate certain common areas, such as the lobby or clubhouse, you should consider keeping the decorations free from religious imagery or undertones. If your community association is passionate about keeping religion in the holiday décor, then make sure you present a balanced display where all faiths are equally represented.
High-rise residents cannot do much outside their units beyond a wreath or other decoration on the front door, but this may be a good time to send a reminder of any policies your high-rise has regarding balcony decorations and visible window treatments or decorations. As far as private homes and yards in gated communities, it’s important to remember that tastes and likes differ. What’s fun and whimsical to one person may be overbearing to another. If the board gets multiple complaints about a particular display, it may be time to consider updating your governing documents to limit seasonal decorations. Without a specific written policy against certain sizes or types of decorations, you run the risk of being discriminatory in enforcement.  Most residents will be open to holiday décor restrictions, such as start and end dates for holiday displays and time of day rules to limit lights disturbing neighbors when they’re trying to sleep.
All boards should be careful about restricting religious displays. Follow the association’s governing documents and seek the advice of counsel.  

Holiday Parties Made Easier

There are a lot of things you can do to help make planning your holiday party easier on everyone involved. First of all, don’t feel constrained by the calendar. If a lot of your residents are away around the actual dates, then go outside the traditional dates. Go into early January! Some people might appreciate a party that comes after the usual rush when they can enjoy their friends and neighbors without the stress of planning other events, shopping and travel.  
Bring in professional help. A great caterer is an asset. The best ones will have access to other party pros like musicians or DJs, face painters, entertainers and photographers. If you have a caterer you love, stick with them! If you do choose to work with new vendors, look at their Google and Yelp reviews. Your property manager may have suggestions or existing relationships to help with vendor selection too.
If you have a social committee, tap them to plan the party, even if you end up hiring professionals to cater and decorate. They can plan themes, create invitations and work with your professional property management company to communicate the details and recruit volunteers through a mass communication system. Particularly talented volunteers may enjoy decorating or creating centerpieces for the party. If your community has a lifestyle director, the committee will work closely with them.
Gary Hulion, community association manager at Cresswinds at Lake Lanier, has some advice when choosing a venue. “You need to find out if the venue can meet your needs in terms of entertainment, including sound, light and staging, if needed. Know whose job is it to set up and break down,” he said. “Check that the venue you rent has insurance, and make sure that the association is named as an additional insured. Also check on parking – is it self-parking, valet? Is there a cost? Knowing all of these things ahead of time will help make your event go smoothly.”
When it comes to the actual planning, follow these steps: 
  1. Identify your budget.
  2. Name the event and pick a date, time and location. Do this at least one to two months ahead. When choosing a location, think about the number of guests the facility can hold, the age of the attendees and whether you plan on seated dining or mingling with passed foods or a buffet.
  3. Recruit volunteers if needed.
  4. See what you have on hand as far as decorations. 
  5. Line up the vendors: caterer, florist, entertainers, servers, photographer, etc. 
  6. Make a list and check it twice – list all the tasks, who is responsible for each, and when each task is due.
  7. Do as much as possible ahead of time so the day-of is less stressful.
  8. Shop for last-minute items, perishable groceries and flowers (or have them delivered!)
  9. Get there early to handle any hiccups.
  10. Relax and have fun!  Enjoy time with your friends and neighbors.
We hope our tips help make the most wonderful time of the year even better for you and your residents!
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Monday November 20, 2017