Jeanette Coughenour, manager of the Association of Poinciana Villages, says the Poinciana Digital Village is a great way to connect residents.
POINCIANA – It sounded like an impossible task.
Poinciana is a growing community spread out across two counties, Polk and Osceola, with more than 70,000 residents in 10 villages. In-between, it’s still possible to find citrus groves and cow pastures spread all around, as well as six public parks, three in each county.
So how could the community’s homeowners association ever find a way to unite the residents of such a diverse area?
The answer turned out to be quite simple: do it online.
“It’s really a slick web site,” said Jeanette Coughenour, manager of the Association of Poinciana Villages, the community’s homeowners association. “It’s exciting.”
It was the APV that initiated the Poinciana Digital Village, the new Web site that provides Poinciana residents with a kind of online look into their community. Everything is there: daily traffic updates. Weather reports. Notices from each of the 10 villages about what’s happening there.
Local businesses can even list their fax numbers on Poinciana Digital Village, and residents can order something through the Web site.
“It’s outstanding,” Coughenour said. “It’s another means of communication. It’s also a means of getting the word out.”
The digital village was needed because Poinciana grew rapidly in the past decade, as the building boom that swept across Florida found its way to the community about a half hour away from Walt Disney World. As newcomers flocked to the area, new residential subdivisions were constructed to meet the rapid demand for housing. Commercial development followed as well.
When the housing market crashed in 2008, Poinciana was hit hard, and the community suffered from a high home foreclosure rate.
But heading into 2011, the community believes there are solid reasons to be more optimistic about the future, including the fact that Osceola Regional Medical Center is getting ready to build the first hospital in Poinciana. Osceola Regional will break ground on a medical arts building later this year.
Coughenour said she expects the hospital to bring thousands of jobs to the community, including construction jobs, positions at the hospital, and spin-off jobs at other businesses that cluster around the facility. That project put the pressure on APV to create an online system to reach out to residents and help them learn all about what’s going on in their corner of the world.
“It’s starting to get more and more hits as people are becoming aware of it and coming to use it,” Coughenour said. “It’s all good stuff.”
One challenge now, Coughenour said, is that APV needs to reach out to people with limited computer skills, particularly seniors.
“With the improved communications that we have available for our residents now, the efforts going on as far as community education are huge,” Coughenour said.
Darhlene Zeanwick, who is coordinating the Web site for APV, said she has already registered 600 users on the site, although her goal is to establish a database of more than 10,000.
Zeanwick has also started offering classes to seniors, to teach them how to use the site. They’re being held at the Poinciana Community Center on Marigold Avenue.
“She’s going to bring that to fruition and have sessions where people can come in and sit with her one on one,” Coughenour said.
Coughenour said they also hope to reach people who don’t own personal computers.
“The key is first of all you have to have computer access,” Coughenour said. “It’s not something that would ever replace the Poinciana Pioneer,” the community’s local print paper.
“This is also free to residents, and we know there’s a percentage that don’t have computer access in their home, although I know there’s a lot of people using the computers at our library,” she added.

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