Dec 9, 2021

Thornhill condominium manager lauded as ‘treasure’ for actions during COVID-19 pandemic

When an elevator broke in a 15-storey Markham condo building, Lynn Samuels did not react as other property managers might have — by simply hanging an “Out of Order” sign and calling it a day.

Samuels knew that with one elevator broken and another designated for moving, some residents would be stressed out since they normally had three working elevators.

So, she stationed herself right near the inferno — the broken elevator — for most of the day, speaking to residents, directing them where to go and carrying parcels for those who took the stairs.

Samuels, 58, is a senior property manager with GPM Property Management Inc.

She started working at the Thornhill location, on Bayview Avenue north of John Street, 31 years ago.

Three condo buildings there are known as Landmark One, Two and Three. She’s responsible for 7825 Bayview Ave. (Landmark Two), plus the land for all three buildings.

Vickey Friedman has lived in her condo for more than 20 years and says the elevator incident is typical of Samuels.

“She has time for everyone,” Friedman said, noting Samuels knows almost everyone’s name.

Here’s a case demonstrating her helping nature.

A 91-year-old resident was distraught because his car wouldn’t start and he had a doctor’s appointment. 

“I was in middle of 15 things,” Samuels explained. “I had to stop and help him, call CAA.” 

During the pandemic, her engaging style was vital, according to Friedman.

Samuels created a chart with residents’ names. She called residents who were alone and kept track of when she last spoke to them and how they sounded. 

Samuels is “a treasure,” said Lorne Shields, who has lived in his condo about 20 years.

“She was there for me no matter what — was and always has been,” Shields said. “I know I can count on her.”

Samuels’ approach to building community includes celebrating the cultural backgrounds of the estimated 1,000 residents from Iranian, Chinese, Indian, Arabic and Jewish backgrounds, to name some.

Pre-COVID, Samuels organized events celebrating the Chinese and Iranian new year, as well as other holiday parties.

“People get to experience a few different foods,” Samuels said. “I find that people are more willing to embrace and co-operate and be part of the community, when everybody feels sort of attached to (it) in some way.”

The property management part of her job is easy, Samuels said. The human part, the interaction with residents, can be more challenging.

“The relationship you have with residents is important,” she said. “They need you.”

“Sometimes I reach out, ask how they are doing, knowing I could be only one doing this,” she said. 

Young residents need her too, not just the elderly.

She’s had people visiting from other countries drop their teenagers off at the condo to live and go back to their home country. A teenager may not know how to complete simple tasks like how to write a cheque, or tie a tie.

“You can ignore it and watch them flounder when they make a mistake,” she said. 

Or you can become a surrogate parent.

“There’s a lot of people who have nobody except their property manager,” she said. “I have a choice and I have chosen to help people.”

Samuels said the building’s security guards have been a lifeline.

One guard, Vinit Shroff,  helped the 91-year-old resident struggling to start his car.

“Where I don’t have patience, he will have patience,” Samuels said. “He’s so kind, a wonderful help to people in the building.” 

She and Shroff share a philosophy.

“We believe the nicer you are, the better the community will be.”

This gets to the crux of her approach to her job.

“Kindness goes a long, long way. If you’re kind to others, they’ll be kind back,” Samuels said. “I just really try to be there.”

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Simone Joseph received a news release that Lynn Samuels had taken a hands-on and often creative approach to helping residents in her Thornhill condominium and wanted to find out more so she interviewed Samuels and some of the residents she helps.

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