I’ve had an interest in Intentional Communities for many years. I semi retired fall of 2018 and went looking, thinking I might end up in Colorado or California. Then I learned about Haystack Heights and many things fell into place to finally make my dream into reality right here in Washington State.
Until now I’ve spent most of my life living in Portland and Seattle. When I found out about Haystack Heights I wanted to be involved as soon as possible, so right away I moved to Spokane and jumped in to be part of several teams.
I worked as a Physical Therapist for about 25 yrs. I then transitioned into being a dog [people really] trainer, running my own business for the last 20+ years. Obviously, I love dogs. Two will be joining me at Haystack: Split and Mozart. I also enjoy bicycling, gardening, cooking, crocheting, reading, Netflix, and games. I love playing games!
I enjoy people, love problem solving, and being helpful. I was incredibly impressed with the people and the property of Haystack Heights. I’m looking forward to working in the gardens, cooking, eating meals together, and having new friends close by. I’m also looking forward to starting up my dog training business part time, teaching K9 Nose Work classes, as the only Certified Nose Work Instructor in the greater Spokane area.
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 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!
Construction Interface Team Report, December 4, 2019
LOTS has happened in November!
Week 28 Meeting Summary by Doug Robnett
This week’s CIT meeting centered mostly on financing. This is pretty exciting stuff, so hold on. We have two lenders we have been working with: Numerica and National Coop. We are moving forward with Numerica for the construction loan! We also got back comments from the city on our permits that UDP and Chuck are working through and once they have had a chance to dissect them, we will report out on where we stand.
The solar panels have been removed from the stands and they are working to get them installed on the Shop this week.
Much of the meeting was spent brainstorming how to get to the 75% membership at 20% down threshold. A strategy Katie has used successfully in the past is backup buyers. In this strategy members (and perhaps others) can commit to put 20% down on specific unit types. This commitment would deliver a premium rate of return which makes it quite attractive.
UD&P is running a cost/benefit analysis of mini splits including life cycle analysis and payoff schedules. This will help us make the decision of which type of heating we want to go with.
Finally, we (and by “we” I mean Abby) are working with Yost-Gallagher and Fred’s Appliance to establish the manageable parameters for individual choice on appliances. Stay tuned for that one.
We’re not talking about politics here, we’re talking about Dan Buettner’s National Geographic cover story a while back entitled, “The Secrets of a Long Life.” Buettner identified five regions in the world as evidence for his argument that certain common factors contribute to some populations living healthier and longer lives than others. The places he identified as Blue Zones (versus Red Zones that are less healthy) span from Okinawa, Japan to the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. If he were to do smaller scale studies, he would surely find cohousing communities to be blazing blue spots on the global map.
Why? Here is the list of the nine lifestyle commonalities in these zones:
A cohousing community is designed for many of these lifestyle factors, and it wouldn’t take much effort to hit all nine aspects of Blue Zones easily. The most obvious Blue lifestyle feature associated with cohousing is social engagement—the common house hub where dinners are served, celebrations and performances happen, young and old pool sharks compete, laundry is folded over chit-chat, nightly gatherings around the fireplace in winter, and porch eating in summer. Don’t discount the socializing that happens outside of the Common House—these too are designed into our cohousing site plan—nodes for hanging out throughout the commons with benches, hot tubbing, gardening, shop work, music jams, impromptu outings and team gatherings.
Family engagement: not only do many cohousers move in with their family but also living in community can form a sort of secondary family over time. Young parents will have a bonus tier of eager “grandparents” to watch over their children; someone returning from a hospital procedure will have folks tending to their post-op welfare.
Constant and moderate physical activity are also intentionally achieved by design. Unlike most American homes, you won’t be able to drive a car into your garage and simply vanish through a garage door because all the parking is on the perimeter. Cohousing anti-isolation design has your neighbors smiling at you whether you’re walking, dancing, riding a wheelchair or scooter as you pass by their porches to get to your condo. The garden, shop and meditation huts are at a bit of elevation from the main commons and Common House, so some trips up there are built-in potentials for increased heart rate (and rewarding views of Mt. Spokane and the city).
Stress reduction? Dinner creation and cleanup are taken care of most nights by someone else. If your child is sick and you can’t miss work, there’s a kids’ room in the Common House and retirees that have time to help. We will be sharing items from trucks to ginger powder—there will be someone right around the corner that has what you need to finish your project.
More legumes and vegetables? We’ve got omnivores among us as well as vegetarians, and we’ll be cooking for both. You’ll always have the opportunity to increase your vegetable intake.
Purpose and spirituality? All the way back at the original planning session, we slated a spot above the garden for a sanctuary, otherwise known as the meditation hut. With a quiet place to reflect, purpose can be more easily fathomed, yes? Additionally, living harmoniously in community is its own built-in purpose.
A Venn diagram of longevity clues from Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda.
This Venn diagram of longevity has a few other aspects that should make
you smile like “empowered women”—we have plenty of em (see this month’s other article on three women from our cohousing group nominated
for Spokane Women of the Year). Sunshine? We’ll have lovely places all around to spend more time outdoors. So, step into a micro Blue Zone with
us at Haystack Heights and you’ll be giving your mind/body and fellow cohousers some big doses of wholesome lifestyle goodness.
Out of the 150 nominations for the Spokesman-Review’s annual recognition of outstanding female leadership in business, politics, arts, philanthropy and social services, our Haystack Heights community garnered more than our fair share in 2019: Susan Virnig, Nikki Lockwood, and Mariah McKay. It’s no surprise that all three are also founders of our cohousing project—we tend to attract people that want to improve our Spokane community overall, not just Haystack Heights.
One of our nominees, Susan Virnig, was highlighted as one of five in the “Legacy Recognition” for a lifetime of work that has had an impact on our region. Her long history of doing good in the region is chronicled in the Spokesman, but even they had to cut short the lengthy list of accomplishments and summarize years of hard work in a small paragraph tucked into the full-page spread:
“While still leading the facilitators group, Virnig kept busy and worked to develop organization vision, resolve staff conflicts and create strategic plans for the YWCA, KPBX, Garfield Elementary School, Shaw Middle School and the Unitarian Universalist Church, as well as the state Commission for the Humanities and the governor’s Task Force on Hunger.”
Haystack Heights nominee Nikki Lockwood is a Spokane Public Schools’ Board of Directors candidate. Her passion for restorative justice and accommodating all students’ needs is central to who she is and her vision of District 1’s future. As the Spokesman says, “She has been a leader behind the scenes in the schools, tirelessly working to better educate and include our children and provide them the skills they need to thrive in the world. She has taken not only an educational but political lead and has a long history of advocacy for education, human rights and fairness.” We are very excited about Nikki’s candidacy—she has a large and supportive community standing with her in Haystack Heights.
Nominee Mariah McKay is Executive Director of Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance. SIMBA is the independent business alliance of the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene metro region, promoting a prosperous, equitable, and local economy by organizing and educating regional businesses, consumers, and partners. Until her recent full-time dedication to SIMBA, Mariah has worked tirelessly as a lead in Haystack Heights marketing efforts. Quoting the Spokesman Review, “Mariah has been dedicating her enthusiasm, energy and creativity to the Spokane Community for several years. She is the executive director at Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance, a board member at Spokane’s University District, and also a former Public Health Educator at Spokane Regional Health District.” The Spokesman can only claim that Mariah has dedicated her energy over “several years” because she is one of the youngest nominees. Those of us who know Mariah are witness to the fact that she seems able to pack into a day or two what would take many of us a month to accomplish. We look forward to the unfolding her vision and capabilities in the years to come.
We are more than lucky and proud to have these three women amongst us in community. Their efforts offer a heartening view of the kind of remarkable work to improve society that concerned citizens can initiate. Who knows how the synergy of so many caring activists amongst us can help shape Spokane’s future?