‘I have a lot of fun here’

Cooperative living located in peaceful St. Cloud neighborhood


By Scott Thoma


While senior living facilities tend to house more female residents than male, the men at Realife Cooperative at Mueller Gardens in St. Cloud are more than content calling this place their home.


Several of the Realife Cooperative residents gathered in the patio area for a cup of coffee. From left to right, Kerry Kupferschmidt, Ivan Kraemer, Jan Sorell, Jim Reimer, Thomas Sawyer, Floyd Stockinger and Linda Urbik. Photo by Scott Thoma

“There are a lot of things to do here for men and women,” said Kerry Kupferschmidt, who has lived at Realife Cooperative for the past four years. “I’m an artist and they have a craft room here where I can paint or make creative projects. I also use the gardens in the back.”


There is also a woodworking shop with many hand and power tools for anyone to use if they want to build something for themselves or to share with others.


“If you’re bored here, it’s your own fault,” said Jan Sorell. “There are plenty of things going on. We have many committees here, too. If there is something you wish they had here, you start a committee and get it done.”


Realife Cooperative is a 50-unit three-floor complex nestled among pine trees that gives it a country setting in a residential area for those 55-and-older. The tenants own their own “home within a home” and are allowed to make any changes to their unit within reason.


Kerry Kupferschmidt, left, and Jim Reimer look over the tomatoes in the residents’ garden outside Realife Cooperative. Photo by Scott Thoma

“If they want to paint their home, they can,” said Williams. ‘It’s their home and they are free to do what they want to make it comfortable and enjoyable.”


This cooperative is a form of multi-home ownership. Realife Cooperative is its own not-for-profit organization, solely owned and operated by the residents who live here.


There is no one to oversee and set rules of the cooperative as owners. Realife Cooperative is owned collectively by its resident members, who elect a board of directors that provide direction to a management staff.


The residents can volunteer to be members of various committees to give them a better understanding and have more control of things within the cooperative. These committees range from Grounds/Landscape, Finance, Library, Garden, Building, Marketing, Kitchen, Entertainment, Security and more.


Of the 61 residents currently living here, only 19 are men, who all seemingly found this place a perfect setting.


“Men tend to stay in their own home longer than women do,” said Brenda Williams, the Housing Association Manager since the cooperative began in 2006. “Then men that we do have here enjoy it because there are many things to do, and the people all get along well and want to help one another.


Floyd Stockinger has been a resident of Realife Cooperative for the past three years. He enjoys the camaraderie with the other men.


Some of the residents of Realife Cooperative gathered at the woodworking shop to discuss plans for a project. From left to right, Kerry Kupferschmidt, Thomas Sawyer, Floyd Stockinger and Ivan Kraemer. Photo by Scott Thoma

“We have men’s coffee time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and you wouldn’t believe some of the things we talk about,” Stockinger laughed. “We have happy hour on Friday with beverages and snacks. The men all sit together in one area and the women in another, and we talk about each other.”


Stockinger said the cleanliness of Realife is what enticed him to purchase a unit.


“The whole place is so clean,” he said. “I really like that. I didn’t want to live somewhere that wasn’t kept clean.


Dwight Bergquist has been the maintenance Supervisor for the past five years and keeps the cooperative clean and things in working order for the residents.


“I try to stay busy,” he said. “I enjoy my work. The people treat me very well here.”


Realife Cooperative is more than a building where people live and keep to themselves. They interact with one another like a family, offering assistance to one another.


“You don’t have to go far to find someone that is willing to help you,” said Linda Urbik. “We all support each other so much.”


Thomas Sawyer has been living at Realife Cooperative since its inception 15 years ago.


“I don’t see very well anymore, but so many people are willing to help me with things,” he said. “I can even play cards with the others because they will help me out. It’s just a nice big family setting here where people care about one another.”


At 99 years old, Ivan Kraemer is the senior resident at Realife Cooperative. But you wouldn’t know it by the way he gets around and offers humor to others.


“I have a lot of fun here,” he said. “Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. It’s just a great place to live here with a lot of great people.”


Potential homeowners can choose from the following floor plans:

1 bedroom, 1 bath, 702 square feet

1 bedroom, 1 bath, 852 square feet

2 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1,067 square feet

2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,179 square feet

2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,202 square feet

2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,213 square feet

2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,239 square feet

2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1.362 square feet

2 bedroom, 2 bath, den, 1,391 square feet

2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1.452 square feet


When a unit becomes available for sale, residents currently living at Realife Cooperative have the first choice of purchasing it because they may have a desire to live in a smaller or larger place than they currently do.


Maintenance Supervisor Dwight Bergquist mans the grill for the residents of Realife Cooperative. Photo by Scott Thoma

Unit features include individual heating/cooling system, 36-inch doorways for easier wheelchair and/or walker access, lever door handles, large bi-level islands, dishwashers, step-in showers, comfort-height toilets, patios/decks, and an included phone/internet/television package.


“Each owner also gets a storage space,” Williams noted. “We also have raised dishwashers and dryers in case someone might have a bad back.”


Among the other amenities available at Realife Cooperative besides the woodworking shop, craft room and large garden area, is a large fenced-in patio and leisure area where residents will get together and grill or socialize, seven laundry rooms, a heated secure vehicle parking area with car wash bay, a wellness room, library/activity room, fully-equipped kitchen with large dining room, and a guest suite.


Realife Cooperative at Mueller Gardens is located at 6670 Northwood Lane in St. Cloud. For more information or to schedule a tour, call 320-258-3094 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thru Thursday, or from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday. Those interested can also email stcloudcoop@usfamily.net or visit their website at www.realifecoopmuellergardens.org.


This is a paid business profile. If you would like to learn more about promoting your business in the Sr. Perspective with a business profile, call Jim at 320-334-3344.

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