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Vacation Home as Forever Home

Reynold Lake Oconee develops community, now more than ever

On March 17, 2020, when the collective world halted, the lake and club community of Reynolds Lake Oconee didn’t pause for long.

With around 3,000 members, many of whom would make their Reynolds vacation home their primary residence in the coming months, the club's leadership assessed the sudden pandemic-induced need to  cease most in-person gatherings without sacrificing the connectedness of the club culture.

“How are we going to continue to provide the sense of community and lifestyle our members enjoyed up until today? How do we do that now?” says Reynolds COO Tim Hong about those first few days assessing the new normal.

As with most clubs, Reynolds member benefits lean heavily on social activities – 10 dining options on site, dozens of work out classes, concerts, food and wine events – in addition to golf, water sports, biking, tennis and numerous other outdoor activities. With the elimination of many of those, Reynolds had no choice but to get creative in order to keep membership engaged.

Simultaneously, the community’s leadership was equally as concerned with the need to keep members and employees safe and healthy. With all of those factors in mind, the #ReynoldsTogether initiative was launched to keep the community connected safely and virtually. Now, a year later, many of the tactics have led to permanent changes in club offerings.

Grocery sourcing and easy pick-up became an initial priority as local grocery store shelves emptied and members were hesitant to spend much time in potentially crowded public spaces. Through the club’s relationship with restaurant supply company Sysco, Reynolds was able to keep members’ pantries and refrigerators stocked. Members loved this option so much, it has remained, with more than 34,000 items sold since last spring. Hong says this is one of several services the club will continue to offer as a membership benefit moving forward.

Another major shift was moving public events to a virtual format via the launch of MyReynolds.TV – a member-only channel that allowed them to keep up with their favorite club activities. Cooking and cocktail demos from the restaurant staff, fitness classes, golf assessments, and concerts available on screen all became wildly popular with members missing their usual way of life. Meal kits from executive chef Derin Moore with an instructional video became a way for residents to still enjoy his culinary direction in the safety of their own homes.

Holiday events and gatherings were also reworked as virtual celebrations to provide a sense of normalcy – virtual Easter egg hunt, Mother’s Day bouquets and floral kits, and a virtual Fourth of July race.

Hong says the success of this effort has propelled the club into looking for additional ways to engage members who don’t live at the club full time but still want to remain connected or benefit from the amenities. Streaming fitness classes and the like are in consideration.

Aside from the Reynolds Together effort, the community’s location and natural environment made it the ideal escape for many members and their extended families looking for refuge from their primary residences in larger cities across the country and Atlanta.

The outdoor elements and amenities provided members a necessary outlet away from the constant stress of working from home and e-learning.

Hong says a young family he recently spoke to found themselves scrambling last spring when school went from in-person to online while the parents were both working, but the ability to access tennis, pickleball, basketball courts, virtual tennis tips, and virtual fitness classes in the early days of the pandemic gave them, physically, the engagement they needed as a family.

Another member had waited until his children were grown to take up golf but still hadn’t until the pandemic hit. Finding himself with more time, he took a golf lesson. A lesson has turned into multiple lessons and playing nine holes in the afternoon. Having access to a safe, outdoor sport encouraged his wife to ride along. She then took lessons, and now the couple connects with multiple neighbors/couples for afternoon golf outings.

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