A Treehouse Perspective

The Treehouse Community approach provides youngsters who have experienced foster care with the opportunity to grow and learn in the context of healing relationships with caring people of all ages. Children who live at Treehouse with their families are able to develop healthy family and community connections because they have access to adults who invest in their lives and model positive relationships for them every day of the week.

Mary Steele, one of our dynamic Treehouse elders, is one of those adults. She has written her thoughts about being a Treehouse community member and gave me permission to share it with you.

Thank you Mary. I am so glad you chose to move to Treehouse Circle and am honored to have you in my life.

Living at Treehouse

When it was time for me to retire and I was looking for a new challenge, I remembered hearing Judy Cockerton speak at a church service about a vision she had for creating an intergenerational community. I had been moved by the concept of older folks interacting with foster/adoptive families and was excited to learn that Treehouse had indeed become a reality. Perhaps this was a place I could live and continue to use skills acquired after years of being a parent to three children, raising a troubled grandchild
and working as a teacher, counselor and administrator of several programs for children and adults.

When I drove into Treehouse for the first time to check things out, I was
stunned by the beauty of the open meadow backed up by Mt. Tom and the attractive, neat circle of houses. After being warmly welcomed by Kerry, I immediately felt this was the place for me and I submitted my application to move here.

Living here for nearly three years now has been a rewarding experience. I love my cottage and the peaceful and safe environment. I immediately volunteered to help out with one of the little girls who was having issues adjusting to her newly adopted younger sister. I would pick her up after school and we would go for ice cream or to get her nails painted, or for a walk in the park and then back to my house for our ritual supper of
macaroni and cheese with mandarin oranges.

Since then it has been my pleasure to get to know many of the children and I have helped out by providing transportation to appointments, caring for them when parents need a break, helping with homework or just hanging out. They very quickly worm their way into one’s heart and it is rewarding to know this attention is helping children feel they are valuable and loved. It has been a pleasure helping with some of the special projects like the arts program or my favorite… rowing on the river.

Rowing spurs me to mention the close relationships that develop with our peers in the community. Some of us have been sculling on the river for three summers now. What fun! We come together to share meals, watch movies,
Hike, exercise, converse, meditate, laugh and develop new programs. The Community Council meets monthly and out of that gathering new projects have developed.

One project I especially enjoy has been the development of the Peace Team committee. Our first project was to sponsor a Compassionate Listening Training. This training teaches how to be present to each other, to truly listen
until a deep understanding occurs and we come to the realization that we humans all have similar needs.

Yael Petretti came all the way from Israel to lead the training and was so impressed with Treehouse that she is moving here! The Peace Team uses this pool of trained residents, making them available for listening and providing resources to anyone in the community who may need assistance with conflict resolution. The Peace Team also sponsored the planting of a Peace Pole and is planning other activities designed to connect Treehouse residents in promoting a culture of peace in the community.

At times our older neighbors need help with transportation or attention during an illness. Living together allows us to feel there are others who care for us and will be close at hand when we have needs. We cook for each other, pet sit and walk dogs.

We have a wonderful staff here. Each one of them is compassionate, helpful and available. One new woman expressed to me the other day that she had never before lived anywhere where the building staff knew the names of her four girls and really cared for her family.

Much more could be said, but I will just conclude by saying I appreciate the opportunity to live in such a unique, cutting-edge community. I believe Treehouse is a model worth duplicating in other areas of the country and I am grateful to all who collaborate to keep this model happening. It certainly enriches my life to live here.

In gratitude,
Mary Steele

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One response to “A Treehouse Perspective

  1. I too love living at Treehouse and I agree with everything that Mary Steele has said.. After being a foster parent myself for 26 years, I finally stopped to take care of me. I realized that I needed to get back in touch with the system in another way and Treehouse was the answer. Mary helped, along with the other people who live here and the staff. I felt needed again. They welcome you with open arms and you are treated like family. Judy is a wonderful and inspiring woman. She too is welcoming and friendly. You can see that she is absolutely dedicated to what she is doing. She has given me the courage and inspiration to get involved again. I never liked the way the system tried to age these children out as early as seventeen with little or no support. I took in children for long term because I didn’t want them bouncing around in the system. I was fully involved in their education and I advocated for them. If I was younger I would do it all over again. The children here at Treehouse get the support and love they need and they absorb it like a sponge. They are great kids and I love them all. I love my neighbors as well. I have made some wonderful friends at Treehouse. Moving here was the best decision I have made in a long time.

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