Posted: January 24, 2023
On 2023’s snowiest Wednesday to date, cottage residents at Holly Creek Life Plan Community gathered at the main building’s newly renovated bar. While they usually meet for their weekly Wine Wednesdays outside, the wet weather didn’t dampen their spirits.
“It’s always a lot of fun to have cocktails together,” said cottage resident Vee Henderson. At a time when many are struggling with mid-winter blues, it’s a reminder of the importance of community.
While they live in the single-family residential homes that surround the main building, the cottage residents — or “cottagers” — are still very much part of Holly Creek. They recently formed their own standing committee on the community’s board, and the group has become an amazing agent of connection between neighbors.
“We’ve been at Holly Creek for seven years,” Henderson explained. “When we moved in, we didn’t know anyone at the community, and there was no good mechanism to get to know people.”
Karen Gilbert, who moved to the cottages more recently, had the same experience. She recalls a Zoom call of women who also lived in the cottages, and “really felt that they wanted to get to know each other better.”
Henderson, Gilbert and several others decided it was time to implement a solution. “I wrote up the bylaws for us to be a Holly Creek committee,” said Gilbert, “and it mushroomed from there.”
One of the first things the group did was initiate Wine Wednesday, traditionally held in a cottage driveway or lawn where the neighbors could meet safely even during the height of COVID. The cottagers’ social calendar blossomed from there, and with the ideas, committees to coordinate them. The standing committee quickly inherited a social, concert, external maintenance, welcome and landscaping committee.
“We’re open to work in additional committees as people come up with ideas. It’s been fun,” said Gilbert.
Now the group hosts a monthly prayer circle; regular women’s and men’s coffee/breakfast groups; a plethora of concerts; and various spring, summer and Christmas dinners or potlucks. In addition, the group has created a community-wide medical crisis action plan and a monthly newsletter (which includes everyone’s birthdays).
Gilbert and her husband spearheaded the cottage welcome program, and they personally reach out to every new cottager.
“We know what it’s like to come into a community brand new. We came from North Carolina and didn’t know anyone here. It was tough in the beginning,” she explained. The Gilberts provide each new neighbor with a booklet to make the transition easier — each one has a listing of favorite local restaurants, the latest eNewsletter, upcoming events and a directory of current cottager phone numbers and addresses.
Peggy Neville, another longtime cottager, created a concert committee and has been instrumental in coordinating regular outdoor maintenance with Holly Creek and their HOA. She is best known for booking local and national performers, ranging from jazz to opera, for community-wide performances throughout the year.
One of Vee Henderson’s favorite programs has been the prayer group. “We pray for people’s concerns in cottages and in the main building,” she shared. “We bring prayers requested or answered on a Zoom that happens once a month. We also send out a list or accept requests from people who aren’t present.”
While some of the cottages are privately owned and others are rented, the neighbors have worked hard to make sure everyone in the group is welcome and part of the community. The result?
“Now we know the people around us on all three streets,” Henderson shared, “and that’s wonderful.”
Events are well-attended, and many cottage residents also now serve on committees in the main building. They know, care and look out for each other.
“It helps when people work together — they become closer,” said Gilbert. “And it’s not all just work — it’s fun, too.”