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Hawthorne at Leesburg, one of the most prominent retirement communities in Central Florida, seems like everything a retiree dreams of; fishing, boating, sports, arts and theater are just a few of the things that a resident can expect to find there. The makings of the ideal retirement life, indeed.
The real story behind one of Florida’s most successful resident-owned retirement communities, however, is not only in how it started, but how it has evolved into the community it is today.
Colonial Penn Insurance Group, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) built Hawthorne in 1972. The community was created with the comfort and security of its residents in mind. Location, climate, transportation, medical services, safety and other cultural and recreational activities were all taken into careful consideration for the construction of the community.
In 1982, after about three years of conflict during which Hawthorne was almost sold to another company, the residents purchased the community from Colonial Penn. Hawthorne residents share ownership of every aspect of it, including all of the common facilities. As a resident-owned community, Hawthorne at Leesburg is debt-free and holds over $2 million in invested reserves. As a result, the Hawthorne community incurred no debt from recent additions such as the multi-million dollar clubhouse.
In recent years, Hawthorne at Leesburg has become one of the most distinguished retirement communities in the nation, growing to the tune of about 1,200 homes and still expanding. With over 2,000 residents currently living in the adult community, Hawthorne at Leesburg boasts many amenities. It includes a 6,500 square-foot recreations facility and a private marina that sits on the Palatlakaha River about half a mile from the Lake Harris Chain of Lakes, as well as a nine-hole putting golf course and both riverside and lakefront homes available.
One of the most impressive features of Hawthorne at Leesburg, however, is their superb security system; 24-hour emergency EMT and firefighters on site, gated entries with cameras and security patrols are just some of the features of the site.
A big part of the success has been readers and decals from Barcode Automation Inc., a Winter Springs-based company specializing in vehicle identification and access control technology. As a leading manufacturer of barcode readers and decals in the industry, BAI has garnered a reputation as one of the most reliable and cost-effective access control solutions for gated communities across the country. Hawthorne was no exception.
“We felt that [it] was a technology we wanted to use,” said Dan Gorden, Chief Operating Officer and General Manager of Hawthorne at Leesburg.
It has paid off. Residents are very satisfied with the system, as it is not only efficient, but also convenient and cost-effective for both residents and staff.
Before, the community relied on magnetic card readers to get through the gates. Now, when someone moves away from the community, the Homeowners’ Association can just deactivate their barcode decal rather than the former resident having to return a card to the main office before they leave. Likewise, when residents arrive at the gates during inclement weather, they can drive by with no problem instead of rolling down their window and scanning a card.
According to Gorden, since the readers were installed in January 2008, only one person has tried to copy the decal but failed to get in. The decals are printed in material that makes them impossible for anyone to duplicate or photocopy in order to trick the system.
“The ones who tried to abuse it were not successful,” says Gorden.
Hawthorne at Leesburg, one of the fastest-growing retirement communities in Central Florida, is just one of many gated communities across the country using barcode readers and decals made by Barcode Automation, Inc. for their vehicle identification and access control needs.