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‘Every day I’m here, I love it more’

As Helen Langager showed a visitor the home she owns at Independence Place Cooperative in Willmar, the pride and excitement is obvious in her voice.

“Isn’t this great?” Langager rhetorically asked with a smile. “I’ve lived here for three months now, and I can honestly say that every day I’m here, I love it more.”

Independence Place, which will be celebrating its 15th anniversary with an open house event from 9:30 a.m.- 12 noon on April 28, is a nonprofit independent living senior housing cooperative for those 55 and older. This type of cooperative is the only one of its kind within a 45-mile radius.

Independence Place is a non-profit independent living senior housing cooperative for those 55 and better. Contributed photo

“Everyone is welcome to come and visit the various units we have,” said Cathy Bays, housing director at Independence Place. “We currently have two one-bedroom, one-bath plus den units available. We also have a wait list for other one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. So, if a certain unit that someone is interested in is not available I encourage them to sign up and be put on the waiting list.”

Cooperative living has a myriad of benefits: a homeowner’s investment grows annually, your own assets are preserved, equity is earned, and tax deductions can be used. Also, your monthly expenses can be easily budgeted with one monthly maintenance fee.

“Members are homeowners, too,” explained Bays. “They take a lot of pride in their home here. The sense of community is something the people really value. They still have their own independence and privacy in their home, but don’t feel alone because they live in a caring community of their peers.”

Members express fondness for the security, serenity, and close-community atmosphere of Independence Place.

“At our age, we wanted a safe and secure year-round place to live in,” said Audrey and Ted Huisinga. “We like the convenient location and clean, well-managed facilities here. The units are in tip-top shape, maintenance is prompt and well done, and there are opportunities for social involvement – as little or as much as you like.”

“It’s a secure place with caring people,” said Georgia Eischens. “It’s just like another family. I’ve talked to people and encouraged them to come to the open house. There are a lot of friendly people here.”

Independence Place will celebrate its 15th anniversary with an Open House on April 28 from 9:30 a..m. – 12 noon. Contributed photo

Members purchase a share of ownership for one of the 36 units in the complex, plus an additional monthly fee that includes: operating costs (heating, water, sewer, janitorial services and supplies, garbage removal, and common area electricity), maintenance (snow removal, grass cutting, HVAC and elevator maintenance), administrative (housing director, legal and audit fees), debt service (principal and liability), reserves (general operating reserve, replacement reserve), and all amenities.

“You don’t own real estate, you own a share,” said Bays. “And all the standard features in the units, such as appliances and fixtures, are the responsibility of the cooperative to maintain.

“We budget every year, and the cost to the members is based only on operating expenses of the building. The budget is based on actual expense and replacement reserve savings only. The shareholders are the sole owners.”

The units at Independence Place (2018) include:

• 5 – 726-sq. ft. 1 bedroom, 1 bath; $42,166 share cost, plus $702 monthly fee.

• 16 – 933 sq. ft. 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 den (2 layouts); $54,190 share cost, plus $904 monthly fee.

• 3 – 1,063 sq. ft. 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 den; $61,732 share cost, plus $1,029 monthly fee.

• 6 – 1,140 sq. ft. 2 bedrooms, 2 baths; $66,208, plus $1,102 monthly fee.

• 6 – 1,424 sq. ft. 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 den; $82,703, plus $1,377 monthly fee.

Langager lived in her home with her late husband in Willmar for 50 years. When she decided to move out of her home, it was a difficult time for her.

“I had a lot of memories in my home,” she admitted. “My children grew up in that home and that made it hard to leave. And now that I live here, I feel like this is my home now. And the nice thing was that all my furniture fit in here.”

“This is why I love my job so much,” Bays said, wiping away a tear. “It’s so great when it all comes together for a member.”

There are several reasons why people choose the senior housing cooperative lifestyle at Independence Place.

Members of Independence Place purchase a share of ownership for one of the 36 units in the complex.

“They can have privacy if they want, while also having the security of knowing they aren’t alone,” Bays explained. “Or they might not be able to, or want to, maintain their home anymore. All those maintenance-type needs are taken care of for them here and are included in their monthly fee.”

Among the more popular of the amenities available to a member is the spacious underground heated garage (a $40 nominal monthly fee), which includes an area they can wash and/or vacuum their own vehicle if they choose.

“I love the garage,” Langager said. “It’s so nice in the winter because you never have to get into a cold vehicle in the morning. And your car is in a safe place.”

And there are also numerous activities and outings planned by the social committee to fit the interests of all of the members of the cooperative. Independence Place has a hearth room that includes a gas fireplace and a full kitchen if members choose to have a social event, game night, or just to sit around and talk over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. The room can also be used for private parties at no cost.

Or a member might want to utilize the library, which is well stocked with popular books, as well as a big-screen television with which members enjoy movie night once a month.

Shareholders at Independence Place enjoy visiting and having a cup of coffee together. Contributed photo

Members also have access to other common areas, such as an exercise room that includes a variety of fitness equipment and a pool table, a craft/quilt/puzzle room, a wood shop, various-sized garden plots, a fire pit, and an outdoor patio area with a gas grill.

“One of the new things we offer here now are exercise classes hosted by Live 2 B Healthy three times a week,” said Bays. “The cost of the classes are covered by most insurance providers.”

There is also an affordable guest room available if a member would like to have a guest or relative stay overnight. Included in the large guest room are twin beds, a full bath, a large cable TV, and wireless Internet. The cost is only $35 for one night and $25 for each additional night.

The shareholders or members run the show at Independence Place. After all, it’s their home. Bays is there to assist them, if needed. She is one of two part-time employees (a maintenance person is the other) hired by Realife Management Services, which the cooperative contracts with for their senior housing management expertise.

Shareholders form their own various committees and make their own decisions at Independence Place. If a need arises for something, the finance committee and board of directors will then determine the cost and if it’s a feasible option for the cooperative.

Christa Rivers is the president of the board of directors, while her husband, David, is chairman of the finance committee.

“We moved here when we were in our 60s,” said Christa. “It has been a wise investment. And, we are basically free from concerns, such as yard work, snow removal and enjoy many other amenities. Our favorite things about living at Independence Place are our home, our neighbors, and our community; we find ourselves grateful each day for this home.”

Independence Place’s open house on April 28 will have one unit of every size open for viewing, as well as any available units. Refreshments will be served, and visitors can register for door prizes.

Independence Place is the only senior living facility in a cooperative setting in a 45-mile radius of Willmar. Contributed photo

“We want visitors to see all the units we have on hand, and if there is one that fits their needs and it isn’t available or if they just want to plan for the future, we urge them to sign up for the wait list,” said Bays. “Membership is offered to those ‘55-or-better,’ as we like to call them. But you’re never too young to start the process to live here by planning for the future. That’s why the waiting list is so important.”

Independence Place is located at 1400 Willmar Ave. SE in Willmar. For more information, call 320-222-8988 or visit the website at

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