When the economy tanked amid COVID lock-downs last year, Ric Campo and Keith Oden worried about their tenants’ money.
But not in the way you might expect from the co-founders of Camden Property Trust, which owns and manages 165 apartment communities across the country.
Instead of focusing on whether residents could pay rents, Ric and Keith wondered how their tenants would make ends meet.
Ric, Camden’s chair of the board and CEO, and Keith, executive vice chair, figured government assistance would be coming down the pike, but they recognized many residents would struggle with rent payments and budgets for food and other life necessities.
So in April, they set up both a rent deferral program, and a program for renters to apply for grants of up to $2,000.
“We just figured we needed to do something and do something in a big way, and we knew it would take money,” Ric said.
As a result, Ric and Keith donated funds from their upcoming bonuses – a total of $1 million. Camden added to their contributions to establish a $5 million relief fund.
“It took us 16 minutes to give out $5 million,” Ric said.
Camden then added another $5.4 million to the fund.
Ultimately, 8,000 Camden residents benefitted from the grants. Hundreds wrote thank-you notes. One came from Samet and Cemille Demir, who live in a Camden community in College Park, Maryland. The couple wasn’t even sure they would be approved for a grant but said Camden’s gesture alone moved them deeply.
“Camden is a company for PEOPLE,” the Demirs wrote. “You see us not just as a dollar sign and our hearts are touched.”
Many residents asked for less than the $2,000. One person asked for $647.52—related to a car repair.
Keith said the thoughtfulness of the requests boosted his “faith in humanity.” So did the care and dedication of Camden employees who continued to work on the front lines to ensure the residents’ homes were well maintained.
Camden put social distancing and other safety protocols in place. Still, when Ric and Keith made site visits last May, they saw the stress in the eyes of employees soldiering on.
Keith told Ric at the time: “We need to do something because of the risks and the sacrifices that these people are making onsite.”
Camden opened its checkbook again - this time for bonuses of up to $2,000 for all front-line team members. About 1,400 employees got the cash reward. In addition, the company added $1 million to its long-standing Employee Emergency Relief Fund.
All the generosity last year accounted for 3 percent of Camden’s net operating income but to Ric and Keith, giving during a year of crises shouldn’t be viewed as an expense.
“it’s who we are,” Ric says. “It’s an investment in our customers, in our people, and in our brand.”
Camden is now No. 8 on Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® in 2021. It’s safe to say they deserve to be there!
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