The Enclave’s HOA: 'Peace, No Violence'
Two men were killed earlier this month inside the gated Orchard Cove apartment complex. Because the apartments sit inside the entrance of The Enclave subdivisions, it’s easy to assume they are part of The Enclave.
Even some of the children living in the apartments think they have access to The Enclave amenities — the pool, pavilion overlooking Gross Lake and tennis and basketball courts. That’s not the case, said Awilda Gonzalez, president of The Enclave’s Home Owners Association (HOA).
Known to most people living in The Enclave as “Miss Windy,” Gonzalez said, “Orchard Cove in an independent entity.”
In the wake of the alleged Orchard Cove murders, the HOA has hung a sign at the entrance of the subdivision: “Peace, No Violence.” Outside the pool house is a banner that reads, “The Enclave Against Violence.”
There’s little doubt the alleged murders have affected residents of The Enclave, Gonzalez said. “It affects homeowners when the streets are taken up by [sheriff’s] cars. At some point, the [sheriff’s] office does a search and will call on people in the subdivisions as part of their investigation.
“When you come to a place of residence and you see the sheriff’s deputies, it causes stress,” she said. “People can feel their children aren’t safe, that the neighborhood is going down.”
In answer to the residents’ concerns, the HOA held a meeting on July 10 to talk about how to deal with the violence. Gonzalez said 45 residents attended, and she received calls from many more.
One of the things the HOA will do is fence off the area around the amenities, making it private and accessible only to residents of the three subdivisions that make up The Enclave: High Gate, Lakewood Estates and The Reserve. Homeowners pay an association fee that covers the cost of share areas, such as the pool.
Other things the HOA is planning includes, Gonzalez said, “having small block gatherings to give tips on how to be safe and just to mingle and get to know your neighbor.”
The HOA board will help people in each neighborhood with the gatherings.
“We’re trying to bring light to the community in middle of all this madness,” she said. “We’re trying to do good. We are showing there are solutions. Instead of holding your remote, come out and socialize with your neighbors. If you just sit in your house and criticize the place will fall apart.”
Gonzalez, who has been the president of the HOA since last year, has lived in The Enclave for 14 years. Even before her stint on the board, she was active in making the community safer and a better place to live.
Working with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO), she started a Neigh- borhood Watch a few years ago. The sheriff would meet with residents annually for Neighborhood Watch training and to offer tips on being safe. Sheriff Ezell Brown is scheduled to return to The Enclave on July 21.
“We work very closely with NCSO,” Gonzalez said. “Last year, we gave them a plaque for all the great work they do in here. They’ve been very responsive to our requests.”
Gonzalez takes the Neighborhood Watch very seriously, sometimes walking the neighborhoods late at night to make sure it remains safe. At other times, she will take to task a resident breaking the HOA’s rules. “I’m not afraid to knock on someone’s door if there car is parked in the grass and tell them it doesn’t belong there.
“People trust us [the HOA board],” she said. “Whenever there’s a problem here, they call Miss Cookie or me.”
Miss Cookie is Caroline Sutton, who has not only lived in The Enclave for 14 years, she’s on staff and spends time at the pool. She helps serve the lunches donated by Bread of Life Deliverance (BOLD) Ministries daily. The lunches are for children, the disabled and seniors.
When the lunches are gone, Sutton said, “snacks are given out. There’s always something to eat.”
“Kids tend to talk to [Miss Cookie],” Gonzalez said. “There’s always an adult here the kids can come to. That builds relationships with children.”
That’s important to the HOA, Gonzalez said.
“We want kids to know you’re not alone,” she said. “We want you to reach out to someone [when there are problems]. We’re always looking for ways to help.
“For me, everything is about the children having good role models and what they’re exposed to,” she said. “The environment matters. If you have a healthy, clean place, it’s good for children.”
As part of the programs supervised by the HOA, there is basketball tournament for children. Gonzalez said there are 37 participants.
“It’s worth having these programs so we can lessen the risk of teenagers getting bored, curious and in trouble,” she said. “We have a community that comes together.”
Another program offered is asking four to six teenagers to volunteer and work with a monitor one day a week to care for the pool area, monitor activity, open gates and interact with people. “It teaches them to come on time, how to behave at work and develops work ethics.”
In return, they are given a small reward at the end of summer.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a volunteer or a paid employee, work ethics are work ethics,” she said. “With the way the world is going, this violence and hate and disregard for life, we need to offer alternatives.”
The HOA also hosts a late night swim for families, and one for adults. The Friday night movie is going to be restarted as well, she said. There are community picnics on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Twice a year, a community yard sale is held, raising money to help support the programs The Enclave offers its residents. In fall, the community holds a festival.
A former community organizer, Gonzalez has a B.A. in Behavioral Science and a Masters in Social Work from Hunter College in New York. She seems to be bringing some of those skills to her care for The Enclave. “I love this place,” she said. Though the responsibilities of the HOA are to maintain The Enclave’s common areas and facilities, “this board is committed to providing activities that keep children engaged. It’s an issue of safety. When you have something for children and teenagers to do, it’s safer.
“There was a time when there was a lot of vandalism,” she said. “I’m not going to say this community is perfect. We live in an area with a lot of crime that effects how The Enclave is seen. The location is stigmatized and it’s unjust to the homeowners. We don’t have much crime in the neighborhood.”
The Neighborhood Watch program and the installation of cameras throughout The Enclave’s subdivisions have helped with that, she said.
“We’re very accessible to residents,” she said. “We can be contacted by phone, email … On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, one of the board members is at the pool.”
And while it takes time to change things, she said, property values in neighborhood have gone up since last year.
Recently, the HOA paid to have 96 lots cleaned up. They had been left vacant after builders withdrew from The Enclave for financial reasons nearly a decade ago. “They became a garbage dump,” she said. “There was eight years of neglect.”
Once the lots were cleaned, she said, people noticed. The Architecture and Landscape committees of the HOA start- ed a “yard of the week” program, placing signs in seven yards in appreciation of the resident’s work.
“People are coming forward and spirits are up,” Gonzalez said. People are becoming more invested in the neighborhood with all the changes, she said.
In addition to newsletters, flyers and meet and greets, the HOA board sends welcome baskets to new homeowners. They are looking at ways to make tenants feel as welcomed, Gonzalez said. “It will help invest them [in the community].”
In the meantime, Gonzalez said the HOA would like to meet with the owners of Orchard Cove. “They need to come forward and realize they need to screen their renters. There are retired people and single mothers with children living in this community.”
From left, Patricia Johnson, Awilda Gonzalez, HOA president, and Patricia Slowly, HOA vice president, stand beneath a banner hung in response to the recent murders at the nearby Orchard Cove Apartment complex.