Walking, Knocking, Talking . . . SOLD!
Editor's note: This is a guest post submitted by Prosperity Now partner ROC USA. It was originally published at ROC USA.
My name is Kathy Zorotheos. Some people just call me Zoro or KZ.
I live in Oak Hill Manufactured Home Park in Taunton, Mass. I moved here in May of 2012 when I still worked for a large convenience store chain.
I worked 45-50 hours a week and commuted another 10 hours a week. All I did was work, eat and sleep. I paid my neighbor to cut my grass. I didn’t know anyone here except for him.
Then I retired in 2014. My first day of retirement was the beginning of my walking plan to lose a little weight. I would wave at cars driving by, and no response. I said to myself, wave bigger and longer next time. So that’s what I did. Next time I got them to look at me. Waving more and more, eventually they accepted the crazy lady, rolled down windows and came out on porches to gab. For a year I walked and knew 200 families out of 252 homes in the neighborhood.
Then in May of 2015 we all received a Purchase and Sales agreement in the mail, between the current owners and a company from Minnesota. And we would be losing the park manager who had worked here for 23 years. I was devastated.
Andy Danforth from Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) called and he wanted to come and talk to the residents. CDI is ROC USA’s affiliate in Massachusetts and four other states.
We called everyone in the park and 50 percent showed up to listen. We learned that we had 45 days to have residents sign petitions for their approval.
So every day, my neighbor and I started out walking, knocking and talking. At every house, we explained that if we could just see the financials and see if we could afford it, why not try to do it ourselves. (Watch Kathy and her neighbors talk about the scare a community sale gave them in this video.)
In 44 days, we had 92 percent of the park signed up. We hired a lawyer and informed the owner that we wanted to take advantage of our opportunity to buy our neighborhood.
The sellers didn’t know what to do. They didn’t think we could do it, I guess. Because they already had a deal with the other company, if they gave it to us, they were afraid of being sued by that company. If they gave it to them, then the residents could sue. So off to Housing Court we went so the courts could figure it out.
Colonial Estates, an over-55 community across the street from us, had tried it three years before but the residents voted no. (Luckily, they got a second chance a few years later and in 2016 became a resident-owned community, too.) The former President told me to watch the court website and go to court whenever they had a hearing date. Well, I wasn’t going to go by myself. So I called every house in the park. I asked for an adult family member to go with me. We hired a school bus and filled it with 50 residents.
A month later we were told that the judge ruled in our favor. Smart man, that judge! We were able to have our due diligence performed and evaluated. All the financials and infrastructure improvements were presented to the residents. They voted in January of 2016 to purchase the park. On March 31, 2016, we signed the papers and we became park owners for just $37 more a month.
We set out to make improvements, and in just the first year finished all the work on trees, treated septic systems, upgraded electric panels, painted speed bumps and even things as simple as painting fire hydrants.
We have been able to pick and choose vendors of our choice. We have made our loan payments, made capital improvements and saved money in reserves for future sewer lines. We have not had to increase our rent for two years.
It is the best thing we ever did.
There were some skeptical residents, and I explain all the work we have done in two years. So now I ask, “Why would we ever want to go back to being owned?”
It is worth all the hard work. I’ve learned to have patience. I love all the people in the community, and am so happy for the generations to come. They are the ones who will see the benefits of our labor. It is worth every minute of my day, knowing that we made a difference.