Jeannie Oliver

ROC board's personal touch overcame homeowners' cautions

By Jeannie Oliver

Board members at Pine Gate Cooperative in Plymouth went door to door collecting income information so the co-op could apply for an infrastructure grant.

The most successful resident-owned communities (ROCs) share a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude about the sometimes-difficult job of running their cooperatives. ROC USA's April Myers wrote about one board of directors that went door to door to get the job done.

By April Myers

When Pine Gate Cooperative’s directors learned of a federal program that could provide enough funding to fix the community’s failing sewer infrastructure, they immediately went into action.

“I sent out a newsletter to everyone saying that we are working on a WISP (Water Infrastructure Support Program) grant and the first thing we needed to collect was the gross annual income,” said Andrea Charbonneau, Pine Gate’s board treasurer.

"Most people hand out the survey and a self-addressed stamped envelope and leave it with their neighbors to fill out. We didn’t do that. We went door to door, waited for them to fill out the survey and watched as they put it in the sealed envelope and left with it. We needed 90 percent participation, and it usually takes about eight months. We got the 90 percent in a month.”

Pine Gate is a 34-home community nestled under the tall pines in Plymouth, NH. Homeowners purchased the community in August 2022. Most of the volunteer board members still work. In fact, Charbonneau, who is retired, recently returned to teaching music full-time while she covers for a maternity leave.

“We all have a lot going on, but we get along as a board, and we realized what needed to be done, and we all did it,” she said. “It’s hard because you don’t want to come across as nagging. But when everyone understood what was happening and how it could help our community, they seemed excited.”


Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) launched WISP in April 2023 to help resident- and nonprofit-owned manufactured-home communities access funding to build safe and reliable water and wastewater infrastructures. CDI is the ROC USA® Certified Technical Assistance Provider (CTAP) for the five New England states outside NH and administers this program in all six New England states.

Each project has a four-part process that includes:

        • Assessment of the potential project,
        • Project development,
        • Securing the funding, and
        • Implementation.

Eligible manufactured-home communities must be resident- or nonprofit-owned and located in a USDA Water and Environmental-eligible area and in a town with fewer than 10,000 people and a median household income lower than the state median.

Historically, the infrastructures in these communities haven’t been upgraded since the communities were developed, and frequently are in a dire state of disrepair.

“The septic is failing,” said Charbonneau. “It’s old, original, and this community was built in the ’70s. We need an overhaul of the entire septic system, and we also need new roads, a new water system, and a new electrical system. But we can’t fix the roads until we get the water fixed, electrical fixed, and sewage fixed. So we are looking at trying to get $2.5 million in funding.”

With help from the community’s CTAP, ROC-NH, Pine Gate’s board began the process of securing WISP funding. One-hundred-forty cooperatives across New England are eligible for the financing and, as of the beginning of 2024, 24 had applied, said Jeremiah Ward, the WISP Program Director, who works with Program Associate Annik Paul.

While the process is lengthy and successful communities may not see funding for more than a year, the first step is gathering income surveys from 90 percent of their homes, a USDA (US Dept. of Agriculture) requirement.

That’s easier said than done. People often view questions about their income as invasive. They may not believe the survey is confidential or be concerned about who will have access to their information. Pine Gate overcame that with the door-to-door, personal touch.

“It’s important to have a board that works together and is willing to do the work together,” Ward said. “Pine Gate helped neighbors secure their confidential income surveys. That step alone usually takes months, but because they did it quickly and efficiently, it’s going to help them along in the process.”

April Myers is a Communications Associate at ROC USA.

Jeannie Oliver is ROC-NH's Senior Director.

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