Serving HOAs in Three States CAI-PADELVAL

 When you’re reading the history of the Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley Chapter of the  Community Associations Institute (CAI-PADELVAL, for short), it might be helpful  to whip out the map to get a sense of who they are and the communities they  serve. Once you get past the little geography lesson, you can get a better  sense of exactly who they are and what the organization has set out to  accomplish.  

 At the national level, CAI represents hundreds of HOAs, condo communities and  community associations, as well as the thousands of individual owners who call  them home. According to CAI’s website, the organization’s focus is on “providing education, information and legislative advocacy services” to anyone and everyone living in or involved with the administration of  condo/HOA communities in eastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and  Delaware.  

 Starting Out

 It all started back in 1973 when the Community Associations Institute was born  out of a need to support and educate America’s 205,000 residential condominium, cooperative and homeowner associations, as  well as their related professionals and service providers.  

 Out of the national chapter, local chapters were created. Back in the mid-1970s,  the Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley chapter first incorporated as CAI’s Mid-Atlantic chapter, where it served the community association industry in  Southeastern Pennsylvania and portions of Southern New Jersey.  

 The organization grew even larger when it merged with the Western Pennsylvania  chapter in 1998. The growth continued when the group merged again four years  later, this time with the Northeastern Pennsylvania chapter. Today, the chapter  serves the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Northern  Delaware (hence the long acronym) and has more than 1,200 members.  

 Making Connections, Meeting Needs

 This might beg the question, if CAI already has a thriving New Jersey chapter,  (the second largest in the U.S.) why would it need another?  

 “New Jersey identifies itself as South Jersey and North Jersey,” explains Tony Campisi, CAI-PADELVAL’s executive director. “The New Jersey chapter of the CAI covers the majority of the state, and we cover  Camden, Gloucester and parts of two other counties. The suburbs of Philadelphia  and South Jersey identify with Philadelphia. There are a lot of strong links to  each other.”  

 Anyone who has ever been involved with an HOA or a professional organization of  any kind recognizes how difficult it can be to meet the needs of one community  and its diverse members, all of whom have different experiences and opinions.  

 Campisi, who has held his current role for the last six years, was recognized by  the national CAI chapter as a 2006 executive director rising star. The  organization is currently the fifth largest chapter in CAI and has won numerous  awards for their achievements, including Achievement and Excellence Awards in  leadership, membership, public affairs, chapter development, and excellence.  

 The group’s educational services include programs geared to both professional association  managers and volunteer board members. The Essentials of Community Association  Volunteer Leadership program for example, is an intensive, one-day seminar for  HOA board members looking to improve their leadership skills.  

 CAI-PADELVAL also administers its Gold Star Community© Program, which recognizes member communities for working hard to develop and  maintain set standards, “encourage community participation, maintain fiscal stability and positively  impact their residents’ quality of life.” The group also distributes CAI’s national magazine, Common Ground, as well as the chapter’s quarterly publication, Community Assets.  

 Challenge Equals Opportunity

 So what happens when you have an organization that serves communities and  members in three separate states? You might think you’d have three times the difficulty, but Campisi considers it more of a unique  challenge, one that the organization strives to meet head-on.  

 “It’s a challenge, because what might be an issue in the Poconos might not be an  issue in Lancaster,” he says. “For example, in the Poconos the communities are large, and were created in the  1960s and ‘70s as vacation sites. Now they are transitioning to full-time residences and  dealing with roads and infrastructure that originally were meant to be used  maybe three months out of the year. However, what’s important to them isn’t the same as what’s important to a 40-story building or a lakefront property.”  

 To assist the needs of all the members, the chapter is governed by a board of  directors comprised of community association managers, volunteer board members  and homeowners, and professional business partners. In addition, there are  regional committees—this encourages the needs of those communities are being met.  

 Currently, the Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley Chapter has three regional  councils. The Pocono Mountains Regional Council covers Northeast Pennsylvania.  The New Jersey Regional Council covers Camden, Gloucester, Salem and parts of  Burlington Counties in South Jersey. The Central Pennsylvania Regional Council  is centered around the Harrisburg-Lancaster region and covers Lancaster,  Dauphin, Cumberland, York, Lebanon, Adams and surrounding counties.  

 There are several other committees, including an educational committee that  plans classes for managers, board members, homeowners and community association  members. There’s also a social committee charged with bringing the membership together so they  can get to know each other a bit better and make better use of their knowledge  and expertise.  

 Handling Hot Topics

 The economy has changed, the real estate industry has changed and, in turn, so  has CAI-PADELVAL’s membership, says Campisi. “[Our members] want to learn more about financials—they want to know more collections and foreclosures, for example. When it comes  to legislation, they are dealing with infrastructure issues and the fact that  there is no state funding available for infrastructure needs.”  

 Recently, says Campisi, the CAI drafted House Resolution 350, which directed the  Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study of common interest  ownership communities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition to  studying infrastructure, taxes, and so forth, the study would also count and  catalogue the number of community associations in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. According to the CAI-PADELVAL website, the study was approved.  

 Even though the membership is dealing with changes in the economy in their own  buildings and communities, the widespread fiscal worries hasn’t adversely impacted the Pennsylvania and Delaware Chapter’s membership numbers. On the contrary, Campisi says that membership has been ‘remarkably stable’ for the last year.  

 “We recovered from a drop-off from last fall because people realize that they  need the type of education and information that we offer, and they need it even  more in challenging times,” he says.  

 The organization hosts an annual conference, with the 2010 conference to be held  at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Campisi remembers how  things changed at the 2001 conference. “It was held four days after September 11, and it took a long time to recover  from that,” he says. “This year we had the highest number of attendees and exhibitors—I think because they are looking for help.”  

 Campisi explains that even though it’s a challenging economic environment, the HOA support and administration  industry is somewhat recession-proof. “We still have to cut the grass, maintain the pool and get insurance,” he says. “Budgets may be stretched because of people losing jobs, but we still have to do  these things.”  

 He is excited about CAI-PADELVAL’s future too as it begins to expand even more—this time into Western Pennsylvania. “We haven’t had a presence there in 11 years,” he says. “There’s a need for it. As is true in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and its suburbs are experiencing a  renaissance building boom. Pittsburgh is experiencing an increase in building  conversions into condos and new condos being built. CAI needs to have a  presence in the area.”  

 As CAI expands to meet the changing needs of its members and of new communities  just coming online, Campisi says that the organization will stick close to its  original mission: to “foster vibrant, responsive, competent community associations, and help community  associations promote harmony, a sense of community, responsible citizenship and  effective leadership.”  

 And these days offering a helping hand to community associations and their  memberships across the tri-state region and beyond is needed more than ever.   

 Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer and author living in Poughkeepsie, New York.  


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