This newsletter writer was intending to pen a story about all the teams that it takes to make Haystack Heights a reality, all the moving parts. But then it struck me that Christie Bruntlett embodies “many moving parts” in the guise of a single person. Because you’ll see her doing everything from the banal (setting out name tags at meetings and chasing me down until I put mine on) to the imaginative (working to oversee the production of our very successful video production and digital media campaign), I asked her to make me a full list of all the ways she’s participated in the project that is Haystack Heights. I told her five minutes is about all it should take her to catalogue—I didn’t want to burden her further with another “to do.” Ha! Here’s an accounting “off the top of her head” in her own words. Sarah Conover
First, a little history. Back in 2017, when we joined Spokane Cohousing, I chose the Marketing Team. After several months, I was asked to lead the Membership Team. I was enjoying the Marketing Team, so agreed, on the condition that I could stay on the Marketing Team too. The function of the Membership Team is to educate and nurture our associates and members. That appealed to me because I’m a nurturer by nature.
The Marketing Team recently changed its name to Publicity in hopes of attracting more people, including those who weren’t comfortable with “sales.” Now we’re going by Marketing/Publicity, because it seems wrong to not acknowledge the sales aspect of the team. The team has recently divided into two sub-teams — one for social media and the other for direct outreach, graphics, info sessions and other special events. I work with the one that is not social media. I helped coordinate the digital ad campaign we recently completed, but other than that I try to avoid social media.
Something I’ve been doing since 2017 is helping coordinate the monthly info sessions — scheduling the venues, coordinating the updates of the flyers, getting the flyers printed and distributed (to our membership and to the public), reminding our community members to attend, bringing snacks, and attending the sessions including hauling literature and supplies, set-up and tear-down. I’ve also helped with most of our tabling efforts, including the South Perry Street Fair three times.
I coordinate our underwriting (essentially advertising) on Spokane Public Radio/KPBX for several days leading up to most of our info sessions, and was invited to record a testimonial that is played at random times on KPBX, promoting underwriting on KPBX, and Haystack Heights in the process.
Readers, take a breath. She’s only a third of the way through!
As Membership Co-Team Leader, every month or so I create and distribute a list of upcoming events. I send an e-mail welcoming new associates just as soon as I hear that they’ve joined our community. Then I send them a list of upcoming events and our membership list, and invite their questions. I try to stay in touch with new people for a while even after they have buddies assigned, encouraging them to attend various activities and inviting more questions.
For the National Cohousing Conference, the Membership Team coordinated securing accommodations in cohousing communities in Portland, so that everyone who wanted such accommodations had a place to stay at little or no cost.
Other Membership Team activities include planning large and small social activities for the community. Large quarterly ones have included the January Brunch, the Solstice Party in June, and retreats at Heartsong in September. Small ones included a dance party at Mic & Mark’s house, and encouraging small potlucks for community members to host in their homes. I maintain a list of “Friends to Haystack Heights” so that we can invite them to occasional social events.
I send new names to another member to be included on group e-mails, and forward things to new people until I know they’ve been added to the group. I send new names to another member to have name tags made. I keep the name tags at my house and bring them to our various activities for people to wear, and then do my best to collect them afterward, so they can get back into the box and not have to be replaced.
I help schedule orientations for new associates and assist other members of Membership and Process Team conduct the orientations, helping them figure out what team(s) they might like to try. After the orientations, when we know the associates a little, we match them up with a member of the community to be “buddies.” I buddy-matched for a long time. We came up with a list of buddy guidelines to help members know how best to be of help to new associates. When the Orientation Manual needs updating, I help Martha Haynes fine tune it for the next associates who come on board.
Membership Team also collects dietary information to share with the community for reference at potlucks, and we encourage people to list ingredients of the food they bring, so people will know what’s safe for them to eat.
I collect contact information from new associates to add to our membership list and my husband, John ,does the computer work to add it to our list. I then distribute it to our community digitally, and usually hand out hard copies at LLC meetings. I give membership updates at the LLC meetings.
Occasionally I conduct site tours. The “company” printer lives at our house, so the majority of the printing that needs to be done is completed there.
Obviously, without Christie’s steady and specific efforts since 2017, Haystack Heights would not be anywhere near the membership goal that we are closing in on. She’s too humble to admit it, but as evidenced above, she’s been a major factor in fueling us along, connecting us to community and gently keeping us together.
And this is how she ends her letter: That’s what comes to mind off the top of my head. If I think of other things, I’ll let you know. Sorry, this was more than 5-minutes worth.
At our December LLC meeting, we discussed allocating some funds and setting up a meeting with neighbors to engage them in conversation around landscaping and aesthetic possibilities to mitigate the impact of the Haystack project on their homes.
500 Communities Program
Led by our own Haystack Heights consultant, Katie McCamant, the 500 Communities Program aims to train the next wave of cohousing professionals. The aspiration: a world where cohousing becomes the new normal, where every town of more than 50,000 people has at least one senior cohousing community, and one intergenerational community.
The training program is for passionate entrepreneurs who want to devote themselves to the goal of building the next 500 cohousing communities while working collaboratively, supporting each other and making a living. Want to learn more? https://www.cohousing-solutions.com/about-the-program
Our solar panels moved from the installation on the north end of the property to make room for buildings 1 and 2. We’ve installed them atop the shop just in time for Santa! This allows us to continue getting the Solar Panel Rebate which paid for the move and installation!
Bob and Yvette and their son, Holden, moved to Spokane from Arlington, Virginia last July. Yvette has family locally (and grew up in Ephrata) and have visited Spokane for over a decade. It was the offer of a job for Bob—with a newly minted PhD in sociology—at Whitworth that landed them in Spokane now. Bob is part of what’s called the “social service and community action track,” guiding students who aim to be social workers, or who anticipate working with nonprofits. Yvette found meaningful work as the chaplain at Riverview Retirement Community. Holden is in kindergarten at the Spanish immersion program at Libby School.
Sarah Conover: How did you both end up in Spokane?
Yvette: We talked about moving closer to where my family is, and Bob was pretty intentional about getting to know the sociology departments out west. And it just was lucky that Whitworth was hiring and he got the job at Whitworth.
While Bob was in graduate school, I was a pastor of a Lutheran congregation in Arlington, Virginia. I actually wasn't quite sure what I would be doing when I arrived in Spokane. We decided to move before I had secured a job.
Sarah: Are there parallels between being a pastor in community and your anticipation of living in Haystack Heights?
Yes, I think so. In congregations you need to be mindful about people knowing one another and having time, spending time with one another so that the connection is more than skin deep. My congregation had three different worship times on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and I would forget that I knew people who had been there for a long time, but others didn't necessarily know each another if they didn't go to the same worship service. So, as a pastor, I tried to arrange and create opportunities for people to get together other than Sunday mornings in order that they had an expanded sense of the congregation. Even if they didn't worship with particular people every Sunday, they knew them and cared for one another.
Sarah: What do you think the intention has to be for a community to be healthy?
Yvette: I think it depends. In the case of a congregation you have a sense of shared mission and purpose, some articulation that we are here to be a gospel presence or to tell people about God's love. We'll talk about that in different ways and have different ideas of what that is, but God's love is taking care of one another within community. And not only thinking about the people in the community but also looking at expanding your sense of who your neighbor is beyond that and reaching out and showing love to them as well.
Sarah: Haystack is a secular community, so what would be your idea of an overarching purpose? In our first workshops we did do a lot of visioning. What would an ideal community look like to each of you? I'd love to hear.
Bob: I guess what attracted us to Haystack is the two values of sharing life together and a desire to be more environmentally sustainable. Some communities perhaps have religion or faith at its core, but certainly that's not necessary to have a community of shared value. And those two values for me had been really appealing.
I think our family has struggled like many families we know to find community. At first, I wondered if, is it a DC thing or a time-of-life thing? But I think it is maybe just a modern life thing. We know other people who are not in big urban areas who still struggle to connect. If your lives aren't naturally overlapping, then it becomes really difficult, even with intention, to find time to get together. We were close to this one family in particular with two young kids and, if we were lucky, and with a lot of effort, we would see them a couple of times a month at most.
Coming here we were open. We didn't necessarily have Haystack on the radar when we first moved, but I think wherever we would have landed, we were interested in finding ways to build those pathways of relationships that don't make it so difficult to connect. In my experience, when you live in the neighborhood or physically in the same place as your community, it makes it much easier to share life together.
Sarah: Have you lived in community before?
Bob: When I was in grad school, I lived in a group house with other students. We had meals in common and we had some common practices. We didn't have an underlying mission, we just wanted to live cheaply and safely. They had these established things in place that sort of transcended the individuals living there at any particular time. I just showed up and joined in.
Sarah: What kind of things helped you feel like a community?
Bob: I think mostly the dinners we did together. You took turns cooking and providing the food, and then you got the benefit of the meals the other nights. As a grad student, that's really nice. After that year, I transitioned over to living in Washington D.C. to a year-long service program where there were nine of us that lived in a house and we all worked for the same organization.
We shared life together. That house was different in the sense that there was more intention about it. It was a faith-based organization. We did weekly spiritual practice together and then we also did common meals and then we actually had common money. We had to decide as a house how to spend our resources. We had more equality because we were all at different stages of life and from different families with different means. So, we made a rule that no one could bring in outside resources unless they petitioned the community.
Sarah: Wow, that's big.
Bob: There were lots of things we discussed as a community to try to decide. In general, trying to be wise and kind and figure out rules, ground rules for everybody. There are going to be differences of opinions. Any communities negotiating conflict can be challenging.
Sarah: So obviously it was a good enough experience that you're ready to do community again!
Bob: Yes. It was a good experience. But it's not like those memories were front-of-mind when we decided about Haystack. For me it was more like our recent experience as a family just trying to find community.
It can kind of seem weird to make this big commitment to live with these people we don't really know. But we have all had committed to this broader project. Our friend was reading a cohousing book and apparently there was a point made that most successful cohousing communities aren't made up of people who knew each other beforehand. In some ways, you're subscribing to this broader project and it's not based on the strength of old relationships. There are common values: It’s not necessarily because I like you and you and you (hopefully you develop that affection for one another) but it’s a commitment to those values.
Yvette: I spent two years after I graduated from college living in communities. There were ten of us in Denver, Colorado and we each had volunteer jobs in different organizations, but we committed to living together and we had a stipend and a common pot for our food expenses. It was also faith based, but very much about social justice. I was in Denver for that year with nine housemates. We had commitments to do shared meals together five days a week and we had house meeting once a once a week, and a couple of retreats during the year.
I think common meals—food—work as glue. It's not magic but spending time together over food and sharing your life daily connects people. It makes sense that it be part of what will be our common life.
In my community, there was value in uncomfortable conversations. We had to talk about conflicts we'd been avoiding. There is value in when you're committed to stick with people and you confront the conflict. I just think something that I learned from living in community is that there is value talking about the things that are hard to talk about.
Bob: What I look forward to is the version of sharing life where you help others and they help you. We're in this life together and when something's going on and we need help, people will be there; and there will be times when we're free to be the helpers. There's enough of us that it's not all the people all the time leaning heavily on each other! I was just thinking about when my dad died during one of those years that I lived in community and the value of having a community who walked through that with me every step of the way. Some members are going to be going through something big or even just small.
In community, just dealing with struggles of being at a young family will be easier—those moments like yesterday when Holden was sick and Yvette had to take the day off. We both have duties that involve other people. It was a day I really couldn't miss. And if we lived in a community, we might not have to take a day off work. We could just call around and probably somebody can manage Holden for a day, a half a day or whatever. So, besides just the fun of ongoing rituals and the meals and things, I think it’s wonderful that folks have your back.
Yvette: Although we could have bought our own single-family home, I just want to relate our thinking about being a part of Haystack. Once we started exploring, it just made so much sense in terms of sustainability. Something I really appreciate about the community is that everyone who is choosing to be a part of Haystack is choosing to live in a different way in terms of the amount of space they take and the environmental impact—sharing things like laundry facilities and lawnmowers and stuff, which is weirdly counter-cultural. It doesn't seem like it should be that weird!
It makes me hopeful because sometimes, in terms of climate change, there are moments when it feels like we are just screwed. The thing that gets me is that it's Holden’s generation that’s going to be suffering because of it. It really is meaningful for me to be part of a community of people to whom that matters and they're choosing to live their lives differently. It makes me hopeful. I just wanted to say that's a big part of the value for us. It really was a hook. I'm really grateful that we have the chance to be a part of the community.
Construction Interface Team Report, December 4, 2019
LOTS has happened in November!