Nearly 40 years go, 13 homeowners in Meredith Center, New Hampshire banded together to purchase the land beneath their homes with the help of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, becoming the first Resident Owned Community. Jason and Jeff Sirles grew up in the cooperative, and their father, Bob, was the ROC’s first Board President. In this episode, Jason and Jeff reflect on the sense of community and the generosity of the community sellers. Tune in to hear their perspectives on how growing up in a ROC shaped their childhoods, and how it set them up for success in life.
Episode: Growing Up in the First Resident Owned Community with Jason and Jeff Sirles
Welcome to the Ownership Matters podcast, where hosts Paul Bradley and Mike Bullard of ROC USA highlight the stories of people at the heart of the resident-ownership movement! ROC USA—an organization working with resident-owners in manufactured home communities—offers this resource for various listeners. In this episode, Paul and Mike welcome guests Jason and Jeff Sirles.
0:24 – Today’s episode introduced
Jason and Jeff grew up in Meredith Center Cooperative, the first resident-owned community. Now, there is a national network of almost 300 resident owned communities. Their father, Bob, grew up across the street and moved into the “mobile home” community before it became a co-op. He and his wife Patti lived in the community when the longtime owners offered to sell. The coop bought the 13-home community in June of 1984, and the rest is history!
1:34 – Guests Jason and Jeff Sirles introduce themselves
Both Jason and Jeff were born and raised in Meredith Center, New Hampshire. Currently, Jason works for the highway department in the town of Sanbornton and lives in Salisbury, New Hampshire. Likewise, Jeff is also proudly from Meredith Center. He currently lives in Ashland, New Hampshire and works in landscaping.
2:32 – Jason and Jeff recall their upbringing in Meredith Center
The brothers describe Meredith Center Cooperative as a civically minded close-knit community of people able to influence their own lives. The boys grew up attending board meetings, oftentimes at their own kitchen table, aiming to solve problems for the community. This has given them each a unique idea about what community means.
4:00 – Jason and Jeff’s father, Bob Sirles
Bob and Patti both grew up in Meredith Center as blue-collar workers and knew they wanted to take a risk and raise their family there. Bob was a natural leader and after purchasing the community, the other residents often turned to him for problem solving and technical help.
10:10 – Strength of community
Bob had an enormous commitment to the community and place where he grew up. For the boys, the community feeling of the place they were raised is what stands out to them the most. They recall the residents’ collaboration in raising children and their own participation in the community. In many places today, looking out for your neighbor is a lost value. However, it is still occurring today in Meredith Center.
12:15 – What is the co-op like today?
From what Jeff and Jason can tell, the community is still as much intact today as ever before. For previous and current residents, the co-op isn’t just a place to live, but a place where people enjoy being. The monthly rent at Meredith Center is $150 per month, which includes snow and trash removal, water, and property tax. The money people save on site fees goes directly to impact the quality of life. You can’t underestimate the impact one community can have on homeowners nationwide.
20:32 – How growing up in the co-op has influenced Jason and Jeff today
Rather than being a spectator to life, Jeff and Jason feel they can influence and make a difference in the world in other people’s lives thanks to their upbringing. They are also not strangers to disagreements and rather frank conversations. Seeing people work through their disagreements and still stick together has been a very reaffirming thing for them. The best ways to cooperate, in their experience, is by having ground rules and remaining civil with one another’s point of view.
25:13 – What is being a leader?
Being a leader of a community isn’t merely a title, but a commitment to the people around you to speak honestly even in times of difficulty and to always listen. People lead in different ways, but it takes commitment to being that sort of leader. Humility, and kindness towards everyone, is what really makes a leader successful.
27:59 – What changes were residents able to make after the community became a co-op?
Being a member of a coop means not only that you own your mobile home, but the land around it. This homeownership translates to a certain amount of pride which is often not achieved through renting. In line with this pride, Bob maintained and landscaped the property impeccably. The term “mobile home”, it is revealed, is often misleading as the homes are only really able to be moved once and still be livable.
32:52 – Thank you to Jeff and Jason for sharing their story with us today!
Check out Jeff’s story in the NH Community Loan Fund blog.
Learn more about ROC USA through our website.
Thoughts? Questions? Stories? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.