In 2017, Elna Schonholtz, a resident of Homestead Cooperative of Redwood Falls wrote a letter. That letter, which appeared in an edition of the Redwood Gazette, led to a response from Rex Boots, a former resident of Redwood Falls now living in Michigan.
For Schonholtz the question posed in her letter regarded the history of Homestead, which this past November celebrated its 20th year of providing a “housing cooperative for mature adults where independent, carefree living abounds and where a friendly, social atmosphere is a way of life.”
Boots responded in a big way, as he shared with Schonholtz that he had been working on a history of the Homestead Cooperative, as he had a firsthand view of the process that led to its development in the community.
“I know the history, because Ellie (Boots, Rex’s wife) and I created it starting back in 1989,” wrote Boots in his response letter to Schonholtz.
The story, wrote Boots in his historical account of the development of Homestead, actually began somewhere around 1987 when Ellie’s parents began thinking about moving from their home into a cooperative in Mankato.
At the time, Boots admitted he knew quite a bit about buying and selling homes, but “really didn’t known anything concerning the purchase of a share in a cooperative.”
Boots said as he and Ellie followed the adjustment of Ellie’s parents, they both were very impressed not only with the quality of their living quarters but also the new lifestyle they enjoyed, wrote Boots.
Boots, recognized there was a need for a similar kind of cooperative in Redwood Falls. An initial interaction was held with the group that established the housing cooperative in Mankato, and Boots admitted that was quite a learning experience, adding the process was not just about putting up a building. There was strategy behind everything, including the location of the facility itself.
With the demolition of the old Lincoln school in downtown Redwood Falls, an ideal site was discovered, and ultimately it was the site selected for the housing facility. The group had also opted to move forward with an entity known as the Homestead Housing Center.
One of the challenges early in the process was getting commitments, as Boots wrote that half of the building had to be sold before they could proceed. With that commitment in hand, the project went out for bids.
The initial bid results were much higher than expected as it would have been done during the winter, but those involved in the process opted to reject those bids and waiting until the following spring.
The process continued, and bids were ultimately accepted for the work that began during Summer 1996. Naturally there were plenty of challenges along the way, as Boots recounted in his historical account, but in the end it was in November 1997 that the Homestead Cooperative of Redwood Falls was officially dedicated.
There is much more to the story.
Schonholtz was given a copy of the account from Boots.
“Homestead is a great asset, but it’s really about the people living there,” concluded Boots.
Sitting in the main lobby area of Home-stead this past fall, a number of the current residents, some of which have been there from the beginning, talked about their recollections and the reasons why they live at Homestead.
According to the group, one of the first residents actually moved in during January 1997, when some of the finishing touches were still going on at the site. Ultimately, the site has been the home to many people who have enjoyed the facility at its benefits, including being walking distance from the local library and post office, as well as the downtown.
Homestead Cooperative is more than just a place to live. Those who reside there own shares in the cooperative, and each share owner has a vote on who serves on the board of directors.
The board establishes policies and resolves budget issues.
Those who reside at Homestead have the benefit of not having to deal with shoveling in the winter and lawn mowing in the summer, and they can receive added services such as home health aids, housekeeping and laundry if they choose.
“There is a real sense of family here,” said Cathy McCarney,Homestead Cooperative site manager. “The people here watch out for each other.”
Residents expressed their satisfaction with their home at Homestead, with some adding there was no other place they would have wanted to live.
To find out more about Homestead, contact McCarney at (507) 627-5418.