Charlie Stamm led the Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge’s Residents’ Association through an ordeal unlike anything any of us could have expected: Working to keep the people of a close community well through a global pandemic that particularly threatened seniors.
But being Charlie, he’s modest about it. He gives credit to WCBR management, to other residents, to anyone but himself. But as Peter Buchanan, first vice president of the association, recently wrote in the happenings newsletter, “Undeterred and resolute in his convictions, Charlie Stamm gave the Residents’ Association strength in a time when it might have foundered.”
Charlie’s leadership tenure started about three years after he and his wife, Julie joined our community – in 2020, “simultaneously with the pandemic shutdown.” He hears people say that like it’s a big deal, but suggests he did little besides making sure everyone got the word on what was happening from management. “The Residents’ Association objective is really to maintain constant communications with management and the board of trustees.”
He and other Association leaders did that and more. They could see that everyone’s safety, in fact their very lives, depended on everyone doing their parts.
All involved in leadership during that time scrambled to determine “the regulations that had to be installed,” aware of “the urgency of doing certain things.” For instance, he remembers “having a really keen interest into how quickly we could get testing up, and what kind of testing, and where it would be done and how it would be done.” Beyond that, every aspect of daily life was dramatically affected, from how people would eat to how – or whether – they would interact with each other.
Charlie kept reminding residents of their own responsibilities. “Our safety depended as much on what each resident did as on anything management – or the government, or anyone else – could do.”
“We constantly talked about building the bubble of security,” he recalls. Everyone shared the critical goal: Keep it off the campus.
But the community did more than just hunker down. Rather than merely focusing on a stressful present, management and the association started talking about building a better future for WCBR. Management, residents and consultants started developing a strategic plan envisioning what our community would be like in the years to come.
That way, says Charlie, life was “not just about quarantine.” That might have been depressing. The strategic planning helped folks keep their eyes optimistically on the horizon.
So how did everyone – management, residents and associates – do in meeting the challenge of those two years?
“We did great,” says Charlie. “The actual incidence of either residents or associates being infected was really quite low. Yes, we had people infected, and yes, we had people quarantined. But no one died, and no one got seriously ill.”
That’s quite an achievement, given the way things looked in 2020. And to Charlie, that’s a success for all involved, because things did not get “anywhere near as serious as it would have if we had not come to be so attentive.”
That mindfulness continues, he says. Although the number of infections has gone up in 2022 as everyone has started emerging more from precautions, he sees a community of people who have learned from the experience. Residents are “much more inclined to wear a mask” than many others are, and he predicts “They are going to be the last ones who stop.”
And while we now enjoy each others’ company again, “When we set up meetings, we think about it – we still take those things into account.” He says the people of WCBR have learned lessons, and are “Not likely to abuse the privilege of getting back out into the community.”
But during those two years that ended when Charlie Stamm stepped down this summer, more was accomplished than survival.
“No doubt Charlie will defer credit to others for the Association’s achievements,” says Peter Buchanan. “However, they need to be remembered not only for their substance, but because many will continue on into the future.”