Julie Eades

Senator's story provides a powerful example

By Julie Eades

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen shares a powerful personal connection with audience: She lived in a "trailer park" too.

There's nothing quite as powerful as a powerful example.

We recently had the privilege of having U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen address our training conference for people who live in resident-owned manufactured-housing cooperatives.

US Senator Jeanne Shaheen at 2012 Co-ops Celebrating Community

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen addresses the 2012 Co-ops Celebrating Community audience.

Kate Harris Photography

It was a festive day. Senator Shaheen helped us celebrate the conversion of the First 100 parks to resident ownership, and handed out the ROC-NH™ Above & Beyond awards for exceptional volunteerism in those communities.

The senator also shared a personal connection with the homeowners there. She told them that she and her husband, Bill, had lived in what was then called a trailer park while both were in college in Mississippi.

"It was a wonderful option for us because, as you know, trying to put yourself through school costs a lot of money," she said. When they were ready to move on, she said, the money they got from selling the home allowed them to open a business and invest in another home.

The experience, she said, "gave me a real personal understanding of how important it is to have that option available for people because it is, for most of us, a more-affordable homeownership option and also some real understanding about the challenges."

There are numerous challenges to running a cooperative community, yet none of New Hampshire's First 100 co-ops has failed a remarkable accomplishment. The skills and knowledge needed to overcome many of these challenges were offered in the conference's workshops, often by homeowners who drew on their own experiences co-managing their communities.

Our ROC-NH team takes great pride in telling the stories of co-op residents who have stepped up and become leaders in their manufactured-home communities, then applied their leadership skills in their towns, cities, workplaces, and even in national organizations.

Hearing Senator Shaheen's story, it was possible to believe there might even be another prospective U.S. senator today among the young families in New Hampshire's resident-owned communities, and that he or she would have mastered the fundamentals of civic engagement right in their own neighborhood!

Juliana Eades is President of the Community Loan Fund.