Close-up of HarborChase I got vaccinated pin

Vaccinated workers for a Vero Beach, FL-based senior living operator stand to win a piece of $100,000 in cash prizes and a 2021 Nissan Versa in a grand prize drawing this week.

Harbor Retirement Associates will hold a prize drawing for the car on July 8 at independent living community Regency Park in Vero Beach. The drawing will be broadcast live via Zoom to HRA’s 38 communities in 13 states. The operator also is giving away $100,000 in cash prizes during this campaign, including $500 drawings at communities.

HRA Chief Operations Officer Kim Lewis told McKnight’s Senior Living that although the company provided a great deal of education on vaccines, it was discouraged by the low staff member vaccination rates plaguing the industry. Rather than mandating vaccinations, Lewis said, the company turned to its mission of celebrating senior living and having fun.

“We are a mission-driven business that functions under a higher calling,” Lewis said. With buy-in from the corporate level and executive directors, she added, HRA put together a multi-layered strategy of education, messaging, fun and celebration that included “I’m vaccinated” pins, ceremonies, trophies and cash drawings.

It worked. After the first pinning ceremony and cash drawing, staff vaccination numbers began to creep up. Today, HRA’s overall staff vaccination rate stands at 82%, although some communities have achieved the company goal of 85% or higher. 

Four $500 drawings have been held to date, and they will continue for the foreseeable future, Lewis said. 

“What we’re doing is working. Why stop at 85%?” she said. “Why not keep going?”

And although she thinks the approach could work for other providers, she said it involves more than just offering cash prizes.

“A lot of love has to go into it; a lot of camaraderie has to go into it. A lot of coaching has to go into it, and a tremendous amount of trust in leadership and trust in wanting to do the right thing,” Lewis said. “We have reached the goals we’ve reached by coaching people and helping them understand that, as a mission-driven business, we have a higher calling to keep our residents safe.

“Once we joined together as a team and came at this from that approach, and came at it with so much education and positivity, we found that encouragement was so much more effective than a punitive system,” she added. 

To be eligible for the drawing, employees had to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination, persuade others to get vaccinated, and take the HarborChase Pledge of Love, in which they agreed to follow safety protocols and guidelines both on and off the job about masking and making good decisions to keep residents — and their own families — safe.

The pledge was presented early on in the pandemic and signed by every employee. As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift across the country, Lewis said, vaccinated employees who live in areas where the local authorities have lifted mask mandates no longer have to wear them in public outside of work.

“For so many organizations, this became so negative,” Lewis said. “For our organization, we made it fun and one great big celebration of doing the right thing, and honoring the Pledge of Love, and creating a safe environment for our residents to continue celebrating the best of their lives.”

And although HRA does not mandate vaccination for current employees, any new employees must be vaccinated or agree to vaccination.