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Winter Texan of the Week: Shannan Budde

Instantly Converted Winter Texan Brings Summer Activities to Donna Resort

by Rocio Villalobos

Shannan Budde heard such good things about the RGV, she and her husband skipped past the Winter Texan phase and moved down immediately upon retiring. While they had never before visited, her parents have spent years as Winter Texans at Donna’s Bit-O-Heaven RV & Mobile Home Resort, with her mother serving as the activity director.

“My dad just had this idea, so we said, ‘Sure! We’ll move down there,’” Budde said. “Our kids are all grown, so we just packed everything up and down we came. We weren’t really sure what to expect; we’ve just been rolling with it.”

Though Donna is now her full-time home, Budde’s parents still return to New Hampshire every summer. When that time rolled around, Budde was left wondering what to do in the park for fun. So she picked up as the summer activity director.

“We have around 200 full-time, year-round residents, so I thought it would be a good idea to try to give them something to do,” Budde said. “It kind of exploded into this thing now where we’re having multiple dances every week, happy hours, build-your-own taco bars, and a doggy derby.”

Prior to her retirement, she worked as a social media director and event coordinator, making this new role a comfortable transition. Since starting in April, Budde’s introduced a variety of new activities, gauging the residents’ interests through Facebook polls.

“I try to keep it fresh, keep it fun, and come up with new things,” Budde said. “Folks have been really receptive to it and just grateful to have something to do.”

She typically has events going on four days a week, keeping her busier than she was before she retired…not that she minds. The Valley has given her a warm welcome.

“It was really amazing. Another local activity director called me to talk about our happy hours so they wouldn’t conflict and our residents could enjoy one another’s,” Budde said. “I thought that was really outstanding, professional, and courteous. That just made me feel that much better about being an activity director here and working with other parks.”

When her parents return and her mother, Susan, resumes the role, Budde will shadow her and serve as assistant activity director. The plan is for her to eventually take over, once her mother decides to retire (which she promises won’t be for at least another five years).

“I’m juggling 100 to 200 people at the very most for any event,” she said. “She’s working with 300, 400, even 500 people. There’s still a lot for me to learn. I’m excited we’ll get to have a regular season this year because last year was radically different. So it’ll be really nice to expand our events and give people a safe way to get together and have fun.”

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