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VHA Continues Its Tradition to Welcome Home New Residents

The Villages Homeowners Advocates’ New Residents Nights Help Recent Transplants to Settle Into Their New Homes.

By Leah Schwarting  |  Daily Sun Specialty Editor

New residents to The Villages are greeted by two things: a unique community, and an invitation from The Villages Homeowners Advocates to learn more about it.

The VHA’s New Resident Nights welcome and educate new Villagers, a 28-year tradition. That mission continues to be important as The Villages expands south of State Road 44.

Using data provided by The Villages, it’s estimated 7,437 new residents moved into Villages in Lake, Marion and Sumter counties from January 2021 to January 2022.

People who come to The Villages used to live somewhere they were settled and understood the community, said Peter Russell, VHA executive vice president. Then they go to a new place, a place where construction might still be going on around them.

And, while the VHA sends invitations to all new residents, some attendees have been around for several months. 

“They’re not settled,” said Russell, of the Village of Pine Hills. “They’re anxious. They’re not sure how the whole system works yet.”

New Resident Nights are meant to give them some answers. The events are held on the second Tuesdays of the month at one of three regional recreation complexes: Colony Cottage, Ezell, and La Hacienda.

The most recent event was Tuesday night at Colony Cottage. Sixteen organizations, including the District government, as well as the Sumter County Sheriff’s, tax collector’s, property appraiser’s and supervisor of elections’ offices, attended.

Shirley Ropp, of the Village of St. Johns, looked around at organizations’ tables. Ropp has only been in The Villages for about a month.

“I just think The Villages is so complete in what it does that I knew that, if I came here, I was leaving with a lot of good information,” she said. “When you’re new to the area, it’s kind of helpful.”

At 7 p.m., organizations were given the chance to talk to new residents directly, and give them tips such as how to navigate local governmental offices and what programs were available to them. Lou Emmert, president of the UF Health The Villages Hospital Auxiliary Foundation, talked about the foundation’s efforts and how people could get involved.

She said they were particularly interested in retired registered nurses for some special projects. Valorie Wilson, a retired registered nurse, stopped by the foundation’s table afterwards.

She officially moved in two weeks ago.

“I’m looking for ways to meet people and do something that matters,” said Wilson, of the Village of Citrus Grove.

The auxiliary has someone attend the events every month, Emmert said. New people usually take a year or two to join clubs and play pickleball, and then they start looking for a way to give back.

“I’m hoping they’ll save the brochure and come when they’re ready,” said Emmert, of the Village of Belle Aire.

But groups like the auxiliary foundation aren’t the only ones who got to introduce themselves. The night also gave new residents a chance to get acquainted with the VHA itself.

The organization’s mission, Russell said, is keeping the dream alive.

“If we can continue to disseminate information to new residents and old residents that is accurate and healthy with a caring attitude, then we’re going to be successful in helping to keep that dream alive,” Russell said. “People move here not just because it’s a place to live. We have everything you can possibly imagine within the use of a golf cart.”

The next New Resident Night is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 12 at La Hacienda Regional Recreation Complex.

Specialty Editor Leah Schwarting can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5375, or leah.schwarting@thevillagesmedia.com.