Merlene Davis: Vision realized in new community home for women

Minister says spirit, sweat of community made it happen

Herald-Leader columnistAugust 19, 2012 

  • The Legacy Home

    The non-profit Lexington Cooperative Ministry Inc., is taking applications for the small group setting that is an alternative to living in an apartment building or living alone.

    Requirements:

    ■ Must be a woman, 60 years of age or older.

    ■ Annual income less than $23,200

    ■ Income verification and demonstrate ability to pay $425 a month

    ■ Non-smoker

    ■ Pose no threat to herself or other residents

    ■ Willingness to share space with others and help maintain common areas and her room

    To apply: Call Judith, (859) 494-4525 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., for tour or application.

    Information: Visit Legacyhomeministry.org or Facebook.com/legacyhomeministry.

I just didn't see it.

Two years ago, standing in front of two older bungalows on Delaware Avenue, the Rev. Esther Hurlburt said the houses would be renovated so that five older women could have a home complete with peace of mind, financial breathing room and safety.

I didn't see it.

But then, it wasn't my vision. It was Hurlburt's. My job, like that of so many others, was to help bring her vision into the realm of reality.

"I wanted to create a home so that the last years of a woman's life could be comfortable and enriching, rather than worrisome and lonesome," she told me then.

Now, Legacy Home, the two beautifully renovated houses that are now one, connected by a sunroom/breezeway, is the reason two women have a chance to exhale. And there is room for three more.

Legacy Home is an example of cooperative living in a community setting for non-smoking women on a limited budget. Owned and operated by the non-profit Lexington Cooperative Ministry Inc., the home is designed for women 60 and older, who can care for themselves and benefit from the company of and socialization with others like themselves.

The home consists of five bedrooms, three baths, a small library, a living room, a community room, laundry, a large kitchen and off-street parking. The community rooms are furnished, but residents will furnish their own bedrooms.

The one-story living space has wide doorways and an entry ramp that blends in with the exterior. The rent is $425 a month, including utilities, local phone and WiFi.

"People have said to me, 'How are five women going to get along in the same kitchen?'" Hurlburt said. "I tell them because they want to. They can cook for themselves or cook together. However they want to arrange it. They will figure it out."

Hurlburt, a Unitarian Universalist community minister who invested monies from an inheritance to get the concept started, is the founder of the cooperative ministry.

"Our board policy is that we will facilitate, but we don't dictate," she said.

While the home was her vision, Hurlburt said nearly 50 companies have donated items such as windows and doors, lighting fixtures, flooring, food for the volunteers, and interior and exterior design expertise. Individual volunteers invested hours in demolition and rebuilding, including Hurlburt's husband, a master carpenter.

"It was built one doorknob at a time," she said. "It is cooperative. That is how we get along and how it works."

So despite a recession, setbacks caused by copper thieves, waves of doubts and frustrations, the Legacy Home is open.

"It is about community," Hurlburt said. "I think that is the way we are going to survive.

"When the women find out about it, they will see it is something comfortable. It is not a group home. It is not institutional."

Finally, after a visit last week, I can see it.

The home is fresh, warm, and peaceful, just the way new beginnings should be.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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