COVID-19 in the Lowcountry: Callawassie Island Spotlight

Posted by Paige Rose on Thursday, May 14th, 2020 at 1:32pm

Callawassie Island

 

Callawassie Island is a private island community situated directly between Bluffton and Beaufort, SC. As we continue our COVID-19 coverage, we are featuring ways the Lowcountry community has shown resilience in times of struggle. 

Callawassie Island stands out due to its unique location and equally unique response to the challenges presented by the pandemic. Completely surrounded by water and accessible only by a private causeway, Callawassie Island was the first South Carolina community recognized as a Wildlife Habitat in 2007. Quite literally a “hidden gem”, they take the responsibility of member and employee safety very seriously. 

Before we share the special ways they’ve been supporting the local community, consider catching up on our previous Lowcountry COVID-19 coverage by reading about:

Callawassie Island in the time of COVID-19

When COVID-19 first became an issue in early March, Callawassie Island’s General Manager Jeff Spencer sprang into action. 

This wasn’t the first time Mr. Spencer went above and beyond for his community. When Hurricane Matthew (and subsequent hurricanes) tore through our beloved Lowcountry, Mr. Spencer held daily Facebook Live broadcasts from the island to keep evacuees informed.

Natural disasters present their own headaches, but no one could have prepared for the many challenges of life during a pandemic. Callawassie Island is known for its culture. Their community is made up of neighbors who feel more like family. A shared love of nature and outdoor living brings people together at every turn. 

With over 50 clubs, 27 holes of award-winning golf, a thriving tennis program, and a fast-growing number of young families - the need to practice social distancing went against the personal connection on which their culture is based. How did Jeff Spencer and his team ensure quality of life did not suffer while keeping residents and employees safe? Read on to find out.

Callawassie Island Gives Back

Mr. Spencer’s first initiative was to introduce near-daily communications to everyone on the island. Topics include everything from safety recommendations, club operation updates, and philanthropic opportunities, to name a few.

With the closures of the pools, the fitness center, and all-island clubhouses and gathering areas, Callawassie quickly created new ways for their members to stay connected. 

The Employee Relief Fund and FOCI Food Drives

It wasn’t long before members began asking how to give back to the employees with a decreased workload. The island’s 501c3 “Friends Of Callawassie Island” also stepped up to support those in need.

  • They created a voluntary “Employee Relief Fund” so members could donate money and/or goods to any employee in need. In addition to money, members donated high-demand items like diapers and masks. Some members even began sewing masks for members, employees, and first responders. Any offer of payment for the masks is given to the employee relief fund.

  • FOCI holds “socially distant” food drives and encourages members to drive-through the drop off site with non-perishables that are then taken to Bluffton Self Help.

Food and Beverage

Under the careful leadership of Darryn Beck, Callawassie Island’s food and beverage program is second to none. Their newly opened “River Club” compliments their main clubhouse with a variety of new offerings from Chef Jim Spratling.  

  • Unable to offer dining room seating, Mr. Beck, Chef Jim, and their team pivoted their entire operation for contactless curbside pickup. 

  • They introduced “Callawassie Pantry” so members can obtain essentials without having to leave the island. Everything from fresh eggs to toilet tissue can be ordered and picked up the very next day.

  • Last but not least, Chef Jim purchased a smoker and opened “Chef Jim’s Smoke Shack”. Members enjoy take out smoked ribs, smoked chicken, and all the fixings every Saturday and Sunday (if they order fast enough)! The Smoke Shack sells out every time.

Health and Wellness Offerings

  • Though gyms were closed to stop the spread of the virus, the community allowed free rentals of weights and equipment so members could stay active at home.

  • Instructors pivoted all their classes to Zoom and made them entirely free to anyone interested. 

  • Callawassie Island’s on-site physical therapist Chelsea Fearn continued to see patients after implementing careful sanitization requirements. This ensured members were not forced to travel off-island to crowded physical therapy offices.

Socially-Distant Living

  • Visitors to the island have been significantly reduced, with members being asked to refrain from hosting anyone and halting any projects that require outside vendors.

  • Immediate family members (such as kids home from college) coming to the island are required to self-quarantine for 14 days before using any island amenity.

  • Tennis is restricted to singles and suggested for players who share a household.

  • Golf operations remained entirely open thanks to quick thinking by Director of Agronomy Billy Bagwell and staff. Social distancing rules were put in place to ensure members could get outdoors safely:

    • One rider per cart (unless they share a household)

    • Touchless check-in and scoring

    • Pins are left in the hole and cups were flipped to make it easier to retrieve golf balls

    • No gathering within six feet before or after a round

  • Waste operate actions were refined for maximum efficiency to reduce touchpoints. The agronomy team took over yard debris pick up, bringing off-island truck visits down to a single weekly pass.

  • The island has seen a major increase in the number of members biking, running, and walking about their carefully preserved wildlife habitat that covers 80 acres. To accommodate them, 9 holes of the golf course are open for exercise each afternoon. Members of all ages enjoy the open spaces while they take in the beauty of the Lowcountry, safely.

Conclusion

Charter One Realty is proud to shine a light on the communities who are stepping up to help their members through this uncertain time. Callawassie Island’s commitment to giving back through food bank collection and employee relief programs are great examples of how the Lowcountry goes above and beyond.

Has your community pivoted positively during COVID-19? We’d love to feature how your neighborhood is adapting to life during a Pandemic. 

Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

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