Wilsons Keep Spring Lake Village Informed — and Involved

Raleigh and Patricia Wilson know all about the power of words. With Raleigh’s background as an editor for Harper & Row publishing and Patricia having worked as an advertising director for a larger San Francisco firm, it’s no wonder they were approached about taking over the community newsletter within days of moving into Spring Lake Village 12 years ago.

“At the time, it was done by hand,” Raleigh recalls. “The editor literally cut and taped each typewritten story onto a piece of paper and then created a master for the copier machine to print it out. So, we knew we’d have to change that.”

“We saw such pride and energy here at Spring Lake Village and that really wasn’t being reflected in the newsletter,” Patricia said. Raleigh added, “This community is blessed with a lot of smart people, who want to know what’s going on. We thought it was a great opportunity to bring us together as a community.

With this idea as their north star, the Wilsons set about reimagining the newsletter to be forward-looking, rather than backward. “We prefer to get people involved in what’s happening and to inspire participation,” Patricia said. “This has turned out to be the method of the newsletter and also why people gravitate to it, Now it’s more about what they can do.”

And it’s come to be something residents depend on.

A Perfect Match for Publishing

Raleigh and Patricia bring unique skills and perspectives to the task. It was Raleigh’s idea to create a consistent structure for the newsletter, so people would know where to find what they’re looking for—the same way you know where to look for the weather in your local paper, for example.

Patricia’s advertising background taught her that when people are smiling, they’re more likely to buy your product. Or in this case, to get involved. “We keep that in mind when we’re writing,” she said. Patricia also understands the value of photos while Raleigh’s deft hand can transform what anyone writes into a crisp, engaging piece.

“One of the joys of being an editor is taking something that someone else wrote and helping them express it better—in essence, coming up with a piece that makes them think, ‘That’s exactly what I wanted to say,’” Raleigh said.

Plus, they both love being involved in the community—and publishing the newsletter is both a motivator and a reward. People expect to see them at events and like getting involved in the process. “Residents feel it provides a glue, pulling everything together. They really look forward to it. We even get a lot of thank you notes,” Patricia said.

Putting it Together

So, how do they actually go about creating the newsletter each month? Well, it takes a village. The Wilsons start with a list of ideas, from upcoming events to administrative happenings and new resident profiles. They also receive submissions from both staff and residents each month, including some regular features, such as the new books section that the community’s librarian compiles. “There’s a lot of back and forth involved,” Patricia explained. “We have to pay attention to what’s going on and sometimes dig in to find out more details.”

Once they have all of the content together, it’s time to put it into layout. Rather than using a set format, the Wilsons let the content dictate the design. They use a frame-based program called Open Office to lay out the content, allowing for last-minute changes, then put the PDF on a thumb drive and head to the business office to print out 390 copies—enough to put one in each resident’s mailbox. In addition, they have about 350 residents and family members who’ve signed up to receive the newsletter via email.

The Wilsons also exchange issues with half a dozen other communities, some of which they guided in launching their own newsletters. When asked for advice, “We always tell people it takes a commitment to consistency,” Patricia said. “The graveyard of newsletters is littered with Volume 1, Issue 1. People may not glom onto it immediately, but stick with it and you’ll get there.”

With 12 years of newsletters published, you can bet the Wilsons have come across some interesting stories. Raleigh loved keeping tabs on the campus remodel that took place over about 18 months. “We reported on different aspects of the project every month, sharing photos and details with residents,” he said. “We’re a senior living community, so not everyone is able to walk from point A to point B to see for themselves. So, they really enjoyed seeing it in the newsletter.”

Patricia loves any story that brings the community together. She’s proud of the high-caliber events and guests they host and enjoys getting a window into what’s going on. She also loves knowing that what she does matters to her neighbors. It’s this strong sense of purpose that makes the Spring Lake Village newsletter so special and makes residents smile when they find it in their mailbox.

“People really look forward to the newsletter,” Patricia said. “Every month there’s something new and intriguing. Almost every story fascinates me—and I figure if it fascinates me, it’s going to be interesting to somebody else, too.”