Lehigh Valley community is Pennsylvania’s first ROC

Evergreen Village homeowners become land owners with $12 million purchase

MOUNT BETHEL, Pa. – Steve Laclair discovered Evergreen Village in the early ‘80s when he helped his Belvedere, N.J., neighbor move into the 55-and-older manufactured home community nestled in the beautiful Lehigh Valley.

“I told my wife this would be a great place to live when we are ready to move,” he said. Nearly 20 years later, the couple moved to Evergreen. It was February 2001, when he and his wife put their New Jersey home up for sale at 9 a.m.

By 3 p.m., they had a full offer on the house.  

“We sold our home and paid cash for our double-wide in Evergreen, and we have lived relatively mortgage free since 2001,” said Laclair, who is also the vice president of the board. “I love it here. It’s very comfortable and affordable. It’s in the country. I go out on my porch and listen to the birds sing and the cows moo.” 

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Last year, John Yetter and his brother, co-owners of Evergreen Village, decided to sell the community, and wanted to sell it to the residents who lived there.

Yetter showed Laclair some paperwork one day while they were both in the office.

“He said this is something you may be interested in,” Laclair said. “So I did some research, called ROC USA, and they sent me some info. In December, I presented information to our social committee group and that’s what got the ball rolling. I really felt like this would be the best way to go.”

Laclair, along with Board President Maureen Shindle and Board Member Rich Cowell, have been instrumental in getting the word out about the sale of their community. He said this was a team effort and wanted to thank all of Evergreen’s residents including Barb Massarano, Greg Strouse, Larry Ventrudo, Jill Best and the property management company, PMI.

Evergreen Village Cooperative is a 158-home community of mostly retired professionals in eastern Pennsylvania, about an hour south from where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania meet. It’s a beautiful community, filled with large trees, walking paths, shuffleboard and basketball courts and a swimming pool.

There is a lot of pride in ownership from the Yetter family, said ROC USA’s Jeanee Wright who worked with the Evergreen homeowners through the purchase.

“This is a beautiful community in a small town and the sense of neighborhood and pride in ownership were so apparent from the start,” Wright said. “The owner didn’t want someone to buy it who didn’t appreciate this place, and he knew the residents did. When you take good care of something, who better to ask than the residents to take the community?”

The homeowners voted overwhelmingly to purchase the community for $12 million and it was finalized Oct. 28. Financing for the purchase comes from ROC USA® Capital, a Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution. This includes support from Wells Fargo, which is providing grant funding to increase market development activities at ROC USA and its affiliates to expanding the number of resident owned communities nationwide.

Rich Cowell has lived in the community for 10 years. He has been involved in this purchase process as the Board’s Member at Large and said the conversion to a ROC has brought the people closer together. During walks, neighbors stop him and ask him how the purchase is going.

“I really thought two things stood out about this deal. One is that we will have security. We don’t have to worry about potential sale to another owner or corporation. Once we do this, it’s ours,” he said. “The other thing we get out of this is control. We can control expenses and keep the rent under control. I really felt like for those two things, this was the best option all around. And I really have to give the owner credit. He did the research to find the information to sell it to the residents.”

Evergreen Village Cooperative is the first community to work with ROC USA in Pennsylvania. In a resident-owned community, homeowners each buy one low-cost share and become Members of the co-op, with one vote per household on matters of the community. They elect a Board of Directors to act on day-to-day issues and vote on larger matters like the annual budget, bylaws and community rules.

“John and his brother were at a point in their lives where they wanted to downsize and wanted to see what ROC USA could do to help,” said Angela Romeo, Vice President of Acquisitions. “ROC USA is now a household name for community owners like them and we’re nimble and experienced enough to enter new markets when the opportunity arises.”

“In the communities we serve, Wells Fargo is focused on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all,” said Paralee Knight, Wells Fargo Vice President of Community Relations for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. “Our investment in the Evergreen Village Cooperative will help to do just that by empowering the homeowners to make the decisions for their future in community with one another.”