2018 ROC Tour: Under the Big Sky

This is part one in a series of blog posts by Lorie Cahill, the ROC Association Director for the Mountain West region. The series chronicles the visits she made in 2018 to the ROCs in Montana.

Twenty-eighteen has been the year of ROC Association putting to work many of the things that we have come up with in our strategic planning. One of those things is having a better personal connection with leaders across the regions by traveling to their communities, and seeing and talking to them in person. My plan was to visit a particular group each year by state. This year that group was Montana.

So in August, I set off with my husband Marty and we visit all the Montana ROC’s. As expected, it was a really great trip and we were not only able to reconnect with friends we had met years before but also to see how they were doing, talk about what things they struggle with and what things they have been able to accomplish. I was inspired throughout the trip by the leadership and work put into each of the communities by their leaders, many of whom have been the leaders of their community since it became a co-op.

We started in Kalispell. First stop Morning Star, a beautiful community that sits just next door to Green Acres Cooperative. I was greeted by a few of the board members when I arrived and we sat down for a chat about their ROC.

Laurie Westendorf, their President on the board, has been doing a great job. She is very engaged with the community and has a great deal of pride in her home and community. She told me that they were hoping to be able to have a community center in the future and hoped that perhaps they could purchase a home in the community and renovate or turn it into a community center.

Morning Star was awarded a “Better Together” grant this year from ROC Association to resurface a spot in front of their mailboxes that would create safer footing for people going to get their mail in the winter.

I asked Laurie if she’d ever consider running for a director seat on the board at ROC Association in the future. She said yes and followed up by saying that if I did, I would want to make sure that I was not on the board in my community at the same time as she felt that it would be too much responsibility to do both at the same time. A fair assessment, as I have been on both at the same time and it is a lot on your plate. I have spent the last year sitting only on the ROC Association board and it was a very busy year and I thankfully was able to focus solely on the national picture.

Laurie said they were doing very well and that she was very pleased with their Property Management company, which has allowed them to do their board duties more effectively.

As I drove out through the community there were many signs of a success: a new and beautiful sign at the entrance, a well-kept community with nice homes, and friendly people supported by a great Board of Directors. 

Next stop: Green Acres Cooperative!

The 32-space community was established as a co-op in 2010 and has come a long way since then. Their start was supported by the sale of the community by the previous owner to its residents as an opportunity for both. The first order of business was to fix a failing sewer system that needed to be hooked up to the city’s system, a two-year project of major proportion where many lessons were learned along the way. Following that, roads were resurfaced, trees trimmed and removed, fences built and an old laundry mat renovated into a community center. Green Acres recently added a community garden and has worked extensively on the trees that are abundant throughout the community. Green Acres has had several new homes replace older homes in the community and has been consistently full since it became a ROC.

There is very limited affordable housing in Kalispell and with ROC’s being such a great opportunity in this area it is also hard to get into them as well. Turnover in the communities is not very high. Green Acres is a good mix of young and older members as well as families and singles.

Green Acres President Lori Meyer with the help of the board at Green Acres has done a great job of transitioning the community to the use of a Property Management company this year. The property management company is also the property manager for Morning Star next door and through that relationship, the two communities are able to save money on different services that they need such as landscaping, mowing, sewer and plumbing, snow removal and such.

Naturally, Green Acres has a soft spot in my heart. It is where I live and served as president for 7 years. Its members are hardworking people who need to know that they have secure homes to go to and a safe place to raise their children and live their life. I know each person who lives in this community and it has been inspiring and sometimes hard but always good to know that people have the opportunity to make a good, affordable and secure life here.

Keep reading! Check out part two and part three in the series.