Living at Treehouse

Stories from the first Treehouse community

Introduction

Community members of Treehouse are richly diverse and bring an extraordinary range of skills, talents, knowledge and abilities to our community. They are living the mission every day,  weaving connections across differences of age, race, culture and lifestyle.  They are proof of both the richness and the power of community.  Part of that power is the fact that we learn from one another, and that makes us grow individually and as a community.

We have also invested in building the trust that is necessary for us to partner with each other and share our perspectives.  At Treehouse every day, I see leadership demonstrated by women who have stepped up to the plate, and I see generosity. These stories reflect some of the magic and power that is the Treehouse model.

~ Kerry Homstead, Treehouse Community Facilitator

Our pioneering social project called the Treehouse community is a 60-home village built from scratch nearly a decade ago in a broad former meadow near Mount Tom. The Treehouse Community was founded to support families that take in foster children in the hopes of stopping the bounce through the system. Now approaching its tenth year, the numbers reflect a success story and defy statistics on foster children.

It’s an uncommon place, where once-traumatized children are raised in a quiet neighborhood where the special needs of foster and adoptive families are supported and understood. It’s also a place where dozens of elderly residents have moved specifically to help these families in simple but critical ways — by walking children to school, by baby-sitting to give stressed parents a break — and to savor the simple pleasures of joining a community where their help and life experience are appreciated.

Read more in the Boston Globe

Mary Steele

When it was time for me to retire and I was looking for a new challenge, I remembered hearing Judy Cockerton speak at a church service about a vision she had for creating an intergenerational community. I had been moved by the concept of older folks interacting with foster/adoptive families and was excited to learn that Treehouse had indeed become a reality. Perhaps this was a place I could live and continue to use skills acquired after years of being a parent to three children, raising a troubled grandchild and working as a teacher, counselor and administrator of several programs for children and adults.

When I drove into Treehouse for the first time to check things out, I was stunned by the beauty of the open meadow backed up by Mt. Tom and the attractive, neat circle of houses. After being warmly welcomed by Kerry, I immediately felt this was the place for me and I submitted my application to move here.

Living here for nearly three years now has been a rewarding experience. I love my cottage and the peaceful and safe environment. I immediately volunteered to help out with one of the little girls who was having issues adjusting to her newly adopted younger sister. I would pick her up after school and we would go for ice cream or to get her nails painted, or for a walk in the park and then back to my house for our ritual supper of macaroni and cheese with mandarin oranges.

The children very quickly worm their way into one’s heart and it is rewarding to know this attention is helping children feel they are valuable and loved.

Since then it has been my pleasure to get to know many of the children and I have helped out by providing transportation to appointments, caring for them when parents need a break, helping with homework or just hanging out. They very quickly worm their way into one’s heart and it is rewarding to know this attention is helping children feel they are valuable and loved. It has been a pleasure helping with some of the special projects like the arts program or my favorite… rowing on the river.

Rowing spurs me to mention the close relationships that develop with our peers in the community. Some of us have been sculling on the river for three summers now. What fun! We come together to share meals, watch movies, hike, exercise, converse, meditate, laugh and develop new programs. The Community Council meets monthly and out of that gathering new projects have developed.

One project I especially enjoy has been the development of the Peace Team committee. Our first project was to sponsor a Compassionate Listening Training. This training teaches how to be present to each other, to truly listen until a deep understanding occurs and we come to the realization that we humans all have similar needs.

Yael Petretti came all the way from Israel to lead the training and was so impressed with Treehouse that she is moving here! The Peace Team uses this pool of trained residents, making them available for listening and providing resources to anyone in the community who may need assistance with conflict resolution. The Peace Team also sponsored the planting of a Peace Pole and is planning other activities designed to connect Treehouse residents in promoting a culture of peace in the community.

At times our older neighbors need help with transportation or attention during an illness. Living together allows us to feel there are others who care for us and will be close at hand when we have needs. We cook for each other, pet sit and walk dogs.

We have a wonderful staff here. Each one of them is compassionate, helpful and available. One new woman expressed to me the other day that she had never before lived anywhere where the building staff knew the names of her four girls and really cared for her family.

Much more could be said, but I will just conclude by saying I appreciate the opportunity to live in such a unique, cutting-edge community. I believe Treehouse is a model worth duplicating in other areas of the country and I am grateful to all who collaborate to keep this model happening. It certainly enriches my life to live here.

~ In gratitude, Mary Steele

I could not be happier. Four years after retiring, I wanted to settle down where my contributions would make a difference in other people’s lives.  Having an opportunity to help children in a meaningful way was paramount.

 

Rosa Young

Kids at Treehouse play, laugh, dance, sing with the coyotes, paint, participate in sports, create music, share their ideas, and contribute their gifts.

It was nearly six years ago, when my dog Chloe and I jumped into an RV overflowing with our belongings and drove 1,000 miles to Treehouse. The description of the Treehouse Community in Easthampton on National Public Radio, a conversation with Kerry, the Treehouse website and written materials lured me to take a leap of faith and move to Massachusetts from Michigan.

 

Rosa, Mary, and Dorothy

We are blessed with the presence of 35 children at Treehouse.  All of them are benefiting from being together in a community dedicated to creating a safe, loving and fun place where they can count on their families, friends and neighbors to help them become the wonderful, unique, talented children that they are.

Kids at Treehouse play, laugh, dance, sing with the coyotes, paint, participate in sports, create music, share their ideas, and contribute their gifts.  They are here for one another in a very special way.  All of them know what life was like in foster care and they have a very special bond and relationship with one another because of it.

Elders recently wrote in a questionnaire that our children are wonderful, polite,  loving, helpful, energetic, and a joy to be around.  They call us Grandma, Grandpa, Mama and Dad. They embrace us, explore with us, work on projects with us, and help us every day. In short, they bless our lives.

Elders also shared that Treehouse provides opportunities to get involved in meaningful activities and grow.  Treehouse is beautiful, convenient, safe, secure, affordable, and friendly.

 

There are good neighbors, wonderful people of all ages, and friends who are willing to help one another. One Treehouse member wrote.  “When I come down that hill and round the corner, I feel at peace. Treehouse is my home.” I am so glad I took that leap of faith and moved to Treehouse.  Living here brings me so much joy.

Read about Rosa's Award from the New England Patriots

We celebrated Black History month last night at Treehouse and it was just one example of the wonderful community we have become.  Our young people rehearsed for weeks and delighted us with an evening of music and poetry which was followed by a wonderful pot- luck supper.  I've been here since before the last bull dozer left and have watched some of the children grow into beautiful young adults and witnessed all of us come together to form a loving supportive environment for ourselves and each other.  ~ Suzanne Schecker

Pam Lumpkin

Pam’s family consists of her two birth children: her oldest daughter who is 20 years old and her son,18 years old, and her two children who came to her from the public foster care system. Her oldest foster daughter has Down syndrome and multiple needs that require constant attention. Some senior neighbors have been a wonderful support to this child. Her youngest daughter, who is birth sister to her other foster daughter, came to Pam’s home a couple of years later. The daily informal interactions with supportive neighbors and the activities offered in the community are an investment in their growth and stability as a family.

On any given day you might see Pam driving off to a school meeting or a doctors appointment for one of the children. She also monitors and supervises the children on a daily basis through home and school routines. Pam engages with community members often offering help and support to a neighbor who is overwhelmed with household chores, child-rearing issues, caring for aging parents, or suffering with illness. In the evening you might find Pam shuttling the family off to their church gatherings and choir practice. Through the years Pam’s home has been a spontaneous gathering place for youngsters in the community.

Pam’s two foster daughters regularly participate in community programs including the Arts and Learning Program, Young Women’s Art Group, Treehouse Choir, Black History Month – which Pam has planned and led – and countless holiday celebrations and Treehouse Teas and potluck dinners. Treehouse elders have been engaged and committed to supporting Pam and her family and the growth, progress and stability of all four of Pam’s children.

Pam has also participated in the Treehouse Strategic Planning process, bringing the valuable perspective of families to the planning. She has created a Team of elders, friends and neighbors who have met to help strategize and support the family regarding presenting issues for either a specific child or the entire family. In addition, she is always willing to offer a helping hand, whether in theTreehouse kitchen during events, decorating the Community Room for functions, or just informal gatherings of friends and neighbors.

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