Hope Meadows in Rantoul, Illinois is an intentional intergenerational community formed to support and serve adoptive families of foster children. As reporter Pam G. Dempsey discovers, Hope Meadows is a model for affordable and sustainable communities.
Visit their website: generationsofhope.org/
Lean more about affordable housing here: willconnect.org
Since the late 1990s, Rantoul, Ill. has been home to Hope Meadows, a new kind of neighborhood aimed to reduce the number of children in foster care.
Known now as Generations of Hope, the community spans 22 acres of the former Chanute Air Force base. It offers affordable housing to families and seniors as well as community programs.
Elaine Gehrmann is the executive director of Generations of Hope
“Generations of Hope is an intentional intergenerational community and it was formed to support and serve adoptive families of foster children. And we have seniors that also live in the neighborhood and help support the families and the kids and act as surrogate grandparents. “
Seniors like Carol Veit.
Her journey to Hope Meadows began over 10 years ago after reading an article about the place on a Southwest flight.
“The area didn’t exactly appeal to me. I said, it could have been New Orleans and I still would have come (laughs) but the program and I loved kids and I knew someday I needed to retire but I didn’t want to do just nothing and this just sounded like a neat alternative.”
Two years ago, Carol left her home in El Paso, Texas - 1,400 miles away, to move to Hope Meadows.
In exchange for reduced rent, the seniors spend six hours a week volunteering in the community. For Carol Veit, this means playing with the children in her neighborhood or helping in after-school programs.
“I had a great time collecting toys again, I liked to do that when I had my own children and I got to do it again. The kids are not allowed to watch television when they are here and I never turn my TV on except for football anyway, so I wanted things to give them so many creative things to do.”
Veit logs about 100 hours a month in volunteer hours.
This interaction only adds to the sense of community that exists here
Kenneth Calhoun and his wife, Debbie, were among the first to move to Hope Meadows. They adopted eight children and have lived here for 17 years.
Kenneth Calhoun, 58
“It’s like a Leave it to Beaver community , I mean, everybody looks out for everybody, we , definitely,we correspond with each other, there’s a lot of things involved so there’s a lot of programs that we do together, we cook together, fourth of july we have our annual picnic, and on Christmas we have our annual chili supper.”
As relationships have developed, so has the program
“Though an additional goal that has developed over time is to help the seniors continue to age in place in this community - and it turns out that seniors, rather than just coming out for a few years after retirement when they were active and busy , this has become their home and they wanted to stay and we have a number of seniors who have been here the whole 17 years and others that have come over the years that continue to be here and want to stay here until the end .”
To that end, Generations of Hope was awarded state grants to build Hope House - a universal accessible home to help the neighborhood’s seniors live out their lives in the community.
Brenda Eheart is founder of Generations of Hope and now works with groups to develop the Hope Meadows model nationwide.
“Um, when it comes to housing, I think we really - I’m sorry, I tend to call this the social architecture, first it is the physical and at Hope Meadows we have begun to look at both of those things because the social architecture, meaning, how do you design homes to facilitate interactions among neighbors, to facilitate relationships between the generations um is something that we take very seriously.”
Hope House was designed to be the center of the community - a move to retain the relationships that the seniors have built over the years.
“See this cause his neighborhood, everybody has this same thing in common, we’re all in the same accord, it’s the children, so you know, here , uh, there’s a sense of better support, you know what I mean, and closer support.”
“The thing that makes these very diverse communities work is that is the purpose of the community and so the people at Hope Meadows will tell, whether it is the families or the older adults no matter how long the older adults have lived there will tell you we’re here to help the children even if the children are now doing more helping in one sense than perhaps the older adult but they’ll say we’re here to help the children and it trumps race, it trumps for the most part, it’s not utopia believe me, but it tends to trump , maybe it doesn’t, it trumps issues that might plague other communities but it also more importantly just brings people together , um to support each other and I think those are the kinds of neighborhoods we really want”