College Students in the GO Kitchen

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The following answers to this question have been provided by members of the Great Oak, Sunward, and Touchstone cohousing communities.

– Seniors have more time to give to community (if healthy).

– Accumulated experience can be useful to younger residents (life lessons).

– Provide grandparent role and understanding of aging to young children – continuum of life.

– Can share hobbies, skills, travel, historical perspective through stories.

– Have lived longer in groups – have ideas for getting along in close quarters.

– Time flexibility during day.

– Different knowledge.

– Conscientious about jobs and committees.  Work ethic built in.

– Grandparent figures.

– Value independence.

– Homes more available for meetings.

– Seniors bring to cohousing a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with all other community members.

– Have a strong work ethic and a keen sense of responsibility, and are more likely to fulfill their obligations and perform assigned duties.

– Seniors are usually no strangers to adversity and struggle and will not run at the first sign of trouble, but will be persistent and stay with a situation until it is resolved.

– Seniors know what it is to be committed to a cause or a purpose, and will find ways to be productive and useful to that cause.

– In general, people are happier when they are needed, no matter what the age.  For Seniors, it gives them a new lease on life, and keeps them active and involved in things going on around them.

– We have time to spend on projects, committees, and work.  We have experience in life and work to contribute when issues arise.

– We lend stability to the community.

– It is good for the community is so far as keeping our world big and preventing age segregation as it can naturally occur – just as other types of segregation can occur.

– It allows us the opportunity to naturally and easily come into contact with, and develop meaningful relationships with Seniors.  It allows us to lend a hand to Seniors which can help them age in place – at their home – for much longer periods of time.

– It gives us the wonderful, enriching opportunity to learn about a world we/our children never experienced – hearing stories, anecdotes, recipes, etc., of days gone by.

– Seniors have both wisdom and the time to share with us.  What a wonderful gift!

– Seniors have more time to do longer-term tasks.

– Work ethic built in (follow thru).  Experience in life.

– Often available during the day.

– Seniors bring life experiences to the community.

– Seniors are more responsible about getting jobs done.

– We can offer child care to young families.

– Seniors, having lived longer, have a certain amount of wisdom to offer younger members.

– Seniors tend to be conscientious in regard to doing their assigned jobs and always present at committee meetings.

– Seniors can be grandparent figures to children.

– Others may need our help.  For example, letting the utility person in your unit, sign for a package, jump start your car, and many other small jobs where you need another person’s help.

– Having somebody there most of the time to help when needed or just to keep an eye on the community.

– We have had experience with some of the challenges that come with living.

– Seniors have a chance of being around during the day to help in an emergency, receive packages, notice/help visitors, etc.

-Seniors often have more time flexibility than those who are working on a regular schedule and/or who are raising children.

– Seniors have time to help others.

– Many Seniors are experienced parents who recognize that everything does not need to be a federal case.

– It is important for kids to be around all generations.  For example, my kids are not afraid to be around all ages, and around death and dying.

– It is important for kids to see you can be a vital member of the community, no matter what age.  Also, children can experience how to treat people of different ages.

– Seniors have diverse experience and backgrounds.

– Great Oak Seniors play a grandparent role for me.

– Seniors are often available during the day – often are the people who respond to requests for help at this time of day.

– I like stories and remembrances.  I like sitting around the table at dinner and hearing people’s stories.

– Most of the Seniors have owned property before, and have an understanding of the practicalities involved.

– Most joyful “from the gut” comments about my kids have come from the Seniors.

– I am a Senior – I would like help getting to know the families in the community.

– I appreciate adult interactions with my child – particularly adults who are not currently parenting.

– Intergenerational interaction is nourishing to the spirit.

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The following agreements were consensed upon at community meetings in 2010.  For more information please see the Book of Agreements.

2010-01-31   Workshop operating rules

2010-04-19   One time exception to th Late Association Fee Agreement re: when to place a lien

2010-06-21   Process committee revised mandate

2010-07-19   Alternative meeting proposal (renewal)

2010-11-15   Structure Reserve Fund increase at $10 per year

2010-11-29   Budget for 2011

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The Grounds Committee worked on the following projects during 2010.
– Alternative meeting on Grounds master plan – Feb. 3

– New orchard with 3 apple trees, 2 pear trees, and 2 cherry trees, between unit #10 and #11

– Compost bins added on east end of community

– Mudjacking to lift several sidewalks

– Hot tub fence mural of the great oak
– Removed oak trees from native plant area

– Lighting added along pathway, 2 on the east end shade structure, 1 outside the laundry room, 1 on hot tub fence, 1 at east entrance to parking lot (on unit #31), and 1 bollard near play structure

– Bat house added near play field

– Flagstone path laid leading to common house porch

– Trees added on north patio

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The following answers to this question have been provided by members of the Great Oak, Sunward, and Touchstone cohousing communities.

– Intergenerational interaction is nourishing to the spirit.

– Provides context of reality for us – multi-generational living in the wider world.

– Gives us many opportunities to contribute (maybe more than others).

– Keeps us active.

– Provides support from our peers and from younger members of the community in times of need.

– Gives opportunities to be needed and useful with resulting fostering of self-esteem.

– Provides outlet for accumulated wisdom (we hope).

– Gives all benefit of community that is closer (more intentional) than a neighborhood.

– Provides companionship, especially for singles and especially during the day.

– Shared resources and shared knowledge.

– Help with physical tasks and with technology.

– All different ages.

– Fresh ideas.

– You can help others and others can help you.
– Safety; companionship; resources

– Companionship: easy chances for interaction and involvement with neighbors.

– If multigenerational, a wider perspective than that of my age cohort alone.

– Living proof of the trends in changing lifestyles.

– A chance of finding someone who can lift something heavy, fix something mechanical, or help seniors with the latest electronic technology.

– Those of us who are retired like to know that there are people around during the day whom we know.

– It’s good to be able to live with all different ages.

– It is good to be intergenerational.  We enjoy interacting with children and younger families.

– Younger members can do the physically demanding jobs.

– Companionship/support from others of similar age.

– Answers, solutions, and resources for life concerns (references).

– Help with physical/technological tasks (when offered and asked for).

– People around during the day.

– Cohousing is good for seniors because it keeps both them and others in an age integrated environment which is important in an age segregated society.

– When elders are able to look out their window and walk out their door or fully participate in an intergenerational activity, it keeps their world “big” and increases the quality of their lives.  As their world becomes or remains bigger they feel more of a sense of purpose, and as they share their wisdom, more of a sense of usefulness.

– Interactions and relationships with others of all ages is what keeps us alive!

– Living in a cohousing community also gives seniors the security of knowing that there is help available from a younger person.

– Provides 24/7 opportunities for diversity.

– It’s good for seniors to be challenged by the various younger generations as to art, music, politics, technology, etc.

– The very nature of cohousing keeps members physically more active than in a conventional neighborhood: hours of prescribed community work; walking to garage, dumpster, garden, the common house.

– Social and caring advantages: we all know each other and can feel comfortable requesting help or to borrow items; we can feel useful for the same reasons and feel needed; social activities with other ages are most welcome.

– Cohousing allows seniors to maintain their independence for a longer period of time while also providing a safety net of others who are willing to help out when needed.

– Seniors can feel a sense of worth and belonging. They can impart wisdom and promote a sense of stability.

– Because I like people around me from all ages, not just the bracket I’m in.

– I want to hear different thoughts and ideas.

– I have no desire to live in a nice house or condo in a nice neighborhood and not know the people on my block.

– One never knows when I may need another’s help.

– Someday I will die.  I prefer to die in a place I helped build.

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The Grounds Committee worked on the following projects during 2009:

– Master Planning Weekend – Jan.31/Feb.1
– Added garden bed at east end of community
– Filled steps between units 24 & 25 with gravel
– Finished shade structure in east gathering area
– Laid sod on play field
– Added 3 trees – in west pod, east pod at unit 31, in grassy triangle by play structure
– Added flowering shrubs in east end
– Decided to hire out lawn  mowing

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this Saturday, June 7, 2008, from 9am to 3pm is the combined Touchstone/Great Oak yard sale! Directions are on our location page.

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Winter has been kind to us this year! Up to mid-January we had temperatures in the high 30s, 40s and low 50s. Then, when it did get cold and gloomy it got icy. I mean EVERYTHING got icy. Here are some picture of OUR FROZEN WORLD…


  click here for more pics…

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news , transport

When Great Oak was initally built, direct-bury Category 5 copper cable was run between the Common House and each building, with two 4-pair cables running into each unit. Unfortunately, as we’ve started using up the pairs, we’ve found that some of the cables have been compromised (possibly cut into during or after construction). The worst affected building is down to 4-8 working pairs out of the initial 24 pairs that was originally installed! Since this is the basic communications infrastructure of the community that has been compromised, we had to fix it, and we decided to run new cables to the worst-affected building but this time in conduit. So we found a contracter, USA Utilities, who came out with a directional boring machine that bored from the Common House west entrance (closest to the network closet) to the affected building, under the Common House South lawn and only had to disturb one flower bed where the CH foundation didn’t allow for any deeper burial of the conduit. In about 2 hours they had covered the 280-foot span at a depth of 2.5 feet on average, and pulled the conduit through with a pull rope so we can pull more Cat-5 cable through (direct bury and with a ground wire). This of course doesn’t come cheap – $1980 for the run. We have to budget in future for other buildings which aren’t as badly off but are in peril in any case!

Pictures as a documentation of our effort may be found by clicking the picture below:

Great Oak conduit laying

We will run the cable through this conduit at a future date…more details when that happens!


To do the work required to run the community, Great Oak depends on its members and their labor. Tasks range from maintaing the buildings and infrastructure of 37 units, to facilitating meetings to mowing grass and plowing snow. Unlike many cohousing communities, the tasks required to run the Great Oak meal program is a major part of the general work program. Meal jobs represent around 50% of the work hours.

Shovelling a pile wood chips mowing the lawn with some help

This being Michigan, the seasonal extremes mean that we have different jobs at different times of year. This winter (2006-7), we have a list of 88 different jobs representing 468 hours. Some jobs have multiple positions, and some people opt to perform multiple shifts of certain jobs. Since the list of tasks vary by season and workers like variety and change, we rotate jobs a few times a year. We also have community work days a few times a year to do those tasks that require many people at once and can be done en masse.
A general description of the Great Oak Work system that was posted to the Cohousing-L mailing list has details about our periodic work surveys and how we allocate work based on the preferences expressed on the survey.

work day Common House painting snow shovelling with the Great Oak truck

As listed in this other recent Cohousing-L message the most desired jobs for this upcoming work season were (the number represents the weighted “average” preference):

  • 42 – meal cleaner once a month
  • 27 – weekday meal assistant cook
  • 26 – light duty snow shoveller
  • 24 – sunday meal assistant cook
  • 23 – meal cleaner two times a month
  • 23 – Common House sitting and guest room cleaner
  • 18 – Common House laundry room cleaner
  • 17 – meals billing person
  • 16 – weekday meal head cook
  • 11 – sunday meal head cook

and the least desired jobs were:

  • -88 – community meeting childcare
  • -87 – Buildings committee steering rep
  • -87 – Buildings committee convener
  • -87 – Weekday head cook three times per month
  • -87 – Lilacc (Little Lake cohousing committee) committee rep

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This system has been in place for almost 3 years, over 600 meals, 2 community meetings per month, many committee meetings and thousands of hours of constructive labor. So far, we haven’t found a better way, but the work committee is always fine tuning and balancing the needs of the community with those of the busy and varied individuals who comprise it. The number of workers has been pretty consistent at around 60 adults, though the load per adult varies, with the goal always to maximize the happiness of all!
Below is the complete list of jobs, sorted by committee. Listed is also the hours per month on average someone doing the job can expect to spend and the number of positions available.

committee Job hours per month positions
buildings Buildings Committee convener 2.00 1
buildings Buildings Maintenance Worker 2.00 3
buildings Buldings maintenance coordinator 2.00 1
buildings Counted member (buildings) 2.00 2
buildings Steering Rep (buildings) 1.00 1
common house Bike Shed Maintenance 1.00 1
common house CH Committee convener 3.00 1
common house CH Decorator 1.00 1
common house CH Hottub and Hobart (dish-sanitizer) maintainer 1.00 1
common house CH Night Lockup 2.00 2
common house CH bathrooms cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH bathrooms spot cleaner 1.00 1
common house CH clean-up coordinator 1.00 1
common house CH dining room cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH game and media rooms cleaner 1.00 1
common house CH halls and common areas cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH inventory/shopper 4.00 1
common house CH kids room cleaner 2.00 1
common house CH kitchen cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH laundry room cleaner 2.00 1
common house CH maintenance coordinator 3.00 1
common house CH sitting and guest room cleaner 1.00 1
common house Counted member (common house) 2.00 2
common house Kids room coordinator 2.00 1
common house Steering Rep (common house) 1.00 1
finance and legal Bookkeeper assistant – Check Writer 3.00 1
finance and legal Counted member (finance and legal) 2.00 2
finance and legal Finance and legal committee convener 2.00 1
finance and legal Insurance point person 1.00 1
finance and legal Steering Rep (finance and legal) 1.00 1
finance and legal bookeeper assistant – Member Bookkeeper 4.00 1
finance and legal bookkeeper assistant – Check Depositor 2.00 1
finance and legal bookkeeper assistant – Check Logger 2.00 1
finance and legal general bookkeeper 6.00 1
grounds Counted member (grounds) 2.00 2
grounds Heavy-duty shoveller 3.00 3
grounds Light-duty shoveller 2.00 6
grounds Snow and Ice Removal Coordinator 3.00 1
grounds Snow plowers 4.00 4
grounds Steering Rep (grounds) 1.00 1
grounds Tractor (Snow plower) 3.00 1
grounds grounds committee convener 3.00 1
grounds point person for garbage and recycling 2.00 1
meals Counted member (meals) 2.00 2
meals Meal cleaner 1.50 52
meals Meal cleaner 2 times per month 1.50  
meals Meal cleaner 3 times per month 1.50  
meals Meal committee convener 2.00 1
meals Meals Scheduling Person 4.00 1
meals Meals billing person 2.50 2
meals Meals billing tech 1.00 1
meals Meeting Night cleaner 2.00 2
meals Meeting Night takeout orderer 1.00 2
meals Steering Rep (meals) 1.00 1
meals Sunday Meal assistant cook 2.00 8
meals Sunday Meal assistant cook 2 times per month 2.00  
meals Sunday Meal assistant cook 3 times per month 2.00  
meals Sunday Meal head cook 4.00 4
meals Sunday Meal head cook 2 times per month 4.00  
meals Weekday Meal assistant cook 2.00 27
meals Weekday Meal assistant cook 2 times per month 2.00  
meals Weekday Meal assistant cook 3 times per month 2.00  
meals Weekday Meal head cook 4.00 14
meals Weekday Meal head cook 2 times per month 4.00  
meals Weekday Meal head cook 3 times per month 4.00  
membership Counted member (membership) 2.00 2
membership Fun coordinator 1.00 1
membership New member handbook 2.00 1
membership Steering Rep (membership) 1.00 1
membership child care coordinator for community meetings 2.00 1
membership community meeting childcare 1.00 6
membership member database maintenance 1.00 1
membership membership commitee convener 3.00 1
membership outreach/contact 2.00 1
membership outreach/marketing 2.00 1
membership website hosting and backend maintenance 2.00 1
membership website maintenance 2.00 1
process Book of agreements content entry 1.00 1
process Community Reporter 2.00 1
process Conflict Resolution committee Co-Convener 1.00 3
process Counted member (process) 2.00 2
process Info committee convener 2.00 1
process LiLaCC Convener 1.00 1
process Steering Rep (process) 1.00 1
process agenda planning for community mtgs 2.00 1
process archivist and bulletin boards 1.00 1
process facilitate community meeting 2 times per season 2.00 8
process minute taker for community meeting 2 times per season 1.00 4
process process committee convener 2.00 1
steering Steering convener 2.00 1
tech GO-Net Administrator 2.00 2
tech GO-Net biller 1.00 1
work Counted member (work) 2.00 2
work Steering Rep (work) 1.00 1
work community work coordinator 3.00 1
work work allocation tech 1.00 1
work work survey tech 1.00 1

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