Medvil Co-op "taps the talent"

Pauline Lussier of Medvil Cooperative in Goffstown“The more people work together in a positive way, the more they think in a positive way.”

That could be Medvil Cooperative’s slogan. It’s an idea – a goal, really – that is unifying a manufactured-home community fractured by its conversion to resident ownership in 2006.

“It was a time of anxiety, of frustration, of conflict,” says Medvil Vice President Pauline Lussier. “Even after we became owners some people moved out within a year or so. … They felt the rents were going to go way, way, way up, that we did not know what we were doing, and that we would fail.”

Medvil’s conversion merged two adjacent manufactured-home parks on paper, but not in spirit. The two parks had operated under different rules; one allowed small dogs, the other didn’t. Lot rents – the monthly fee homeowners pay for use of their house lots – were wildly inconsistent. Plus, the parks’ previous owner had tried to kill the sale by insisting that the agreement include a four-year rent cap, which strangled the new co-op’s cash flow and sowed dissention.

But Medvil had what it needed to unite its residents: a binder of information sheets on which members check off their skills, talents and interests. With new people moving into the 301-home community all the time, that binder soon held a huge reservoir of talent.

“They got me before I even moved in” in 2009, laughs Barbara Giordani. “Pauline taught me early on to tap the talent.”

So when Giordani sought some fun-loving landscapers, she dug into the lists. Check.

Writers for the newsletter? Check.

Fundraisers and handymen to give the community buildings much-needed makeovers? Check. Check.

Today, Medvil’s volunteerism is a model for co-ops and communities of all sizes. Its 19 committees (not including the board of directors) volunteered more than 5,000 hours in 2011 alone. “It is so rare that anyone will say no,” says Giordani. “They love to be asked.”

The results are visible in the rose garden outside the newly renovated meeting rooms. In the clubhouse, whose game room contains a donated antique pool table. In the pond’s color-lit fountain. In the holiday celebrations, yard sales and barbecues. In the community garden.

And especially, for Lussier, in last year’s 5th anniversary celebration, which brought residents from throughout the community together for lunch, socializing and a slide show of the previous year’s fun and left them asking, “When are we going to do that again?”

That’s a transformation. Positively.

This article was originally published in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund's 2012 Annual Report.