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‘This place is just perfect for us’

Independence Place offers independent living in a senior housing cooperative 

Wayne and Delores Hebrink enjoyed the investment of owning their own home. But as they advanced in age, it was getting harder and harder to maintain the yard work. And when they traveled, they worried about the security of their home.

So the Hebrinks made the move to Independence Place on the east edge of Willmar five years ago. There, they can still have the benefits of owning their own place without the maintenance worries. And they can live in a community of their own peers.

“The thing I like about this place is the security that I feel,” said Delores. “It’s homey, it’s a quiet area, and the neighbors are close at hand. The longer you live here, the more your neighbors become friends.” Nearly everyone living in the 36-unit facility feels the same way.

“I moved here the second day it was open, and I’ve never felt sorry for the move at all,” said Blanche Strom, who moved to Independence Place in 2003 with her husband, George.

Independence Place, which will be celebrating its 12th anniversary with an open house celebration from 10 a.m.-noon on April 25, is an independent living senior housing cooperative for those 55 or older. And the facility is the only one of its kind within 45 miles.

“We’ve lived here about four years now,” said Dennis Benson. “My wife (Darlene) has some back issues and she has a hard time with steps. One of the great things about this place is that each unit comes with a washer and dryer. So she doesn’t have to go downstairs to do the laundry.”

Dennis, a former area high school band director, still stays active by designing websites, tuning pianos and dabbling in professional photography.

“I’m self-employed, and it’s nice that I am able to do those things sort of semi-retired while living here,” he said. “We like that we can own our home, yet we don’t have to worry about all the things that come with maintaining it. We didn’t want to rent and condos and townhouses were too expensive. This place is just perfect for us.”

Cooperative living has benefits, such as the homeowner’s investment grows annually, you preserve your own assets, earn equity, get tax deductions, all while not having any maintenance costs.

But it also affords the luxury of having privacy if you want, or enjoying the company of others with various activities offered, or just getting together and conversing over a cup of coffee.

“I like the activities they offer here,” said Wayne Hebrink, who has lived at Independence Place with his wife, Delores, for five years.” When we were living in the country, we had given up square dancing and we had given up going south. And the time gets pretty boring when you have nothing to do but mow lawns and shovel snow.”

There are plenty of activities and outings to fit everyone’s interest and enjoyment.

“All of the activities are planned and organized by the members living here,” said Cathy Bays, the housing director at Independence Place. “There is a hearth room with a gas fireplace and full kitchen where members might have special group events, coffee time or game nights. And you can reserve the room for private parties at no cost. Or, they might plan a group outing to a ballgame, theater event or other activity. It’s all up to the members of the Social Committee.”

There is also a large library stocked with many popular books, as well as a big-screen television where members have “movie night” once a month.

Members also have full access to an exercise room that includes a pool table, a craft/quilt room, a wood shop, various-sized garden plots, a fire pit, and a large patio with a gas grill.

The owners, who are referred to as “shareholders” or “members,” basically run the ship at Independence Place. And Bays is there to assist in navigating the ship. She is one of only two part-time employees (the other is in charge of maintenance) at Independence Place that is a nonprofit organization that was started by John Terwisscha in 2003.

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

Shareholders are the members of various committees at Independence Place. All the decisions made are their own. If they feel a need for something, the finance committee, and board of directors, made up of shareholders within the facility, will decide the cost and whether or not it’s a feasible option.

If someone requests a singer or a magician to come in and perform, the social committee made up of members living at the facility, will go over the options and decide if that is something they feel would be worthwhile.

There are seven different floor plans among the units, offering a variety of options to fit your specific needs. There are one- or two-bedroom units available. Share cost ranges from $39,826 for a one-bedroom, one-bath unit to $78,113 for a two-bedroom, two-bath, plus a den unit. And each unit comes with either a private patio or balcony. Each member also is allowed a secure enclosed storage space.

Monthly fees include operating costs, maintenance, administrative costs, debt service, taxes and insurance, reserves, and all amenities. Each unit includes all major appliances, including a washer and dryer.

“The only way a monthly fee changes is if the actual operating costs increase,” said Bays, “and the resident-elected board of directors elects to change the budget.”

If a member would like to have a relative or guest stay for a few days to visit, there is an affordable guest room with 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.

“We just have a single bedroom here,” said Benson. “So we use the guest room when someone visits us and wants to stay overnight. It’s a very nice room, and it gives them a little privacy.”

A spacious underground garage is one of the selling points to the facility. For a nominal fee ($40 per month), members are offered a safe and secure place for their vehicle that’s out of the cold or the hot sun. And there is also a complimentary area to wash and vacuum your vehicle.

“As the name of the place indicates, this is a wonderful place for independent living,” said David Rivers, who is the chairman of the finance committee at IP. “When we want privacy, that is respected and is appreciated by everyone.”

David’s wife, Christa, is the president of the board of directors.

The building is also close to shopping areas, the YMCA or the Wellness Center.

“I moved here about five years ago, and I’ve never regretted it,” said Louise Thoma, who is the social committee chair at Independence Place. “I enjoy the indoor garage, and no outdoor work is very enjoyable.”

Come and visit Independence Place Cooperative during open house on Saturday, April 25 from 10 a.m.-noon. Take a tour and find out more information. Refreshments will be served, and you can register for door prizes.

Independence Place is located at 1400 Willmar Ave. SE in Willmar. Call 320-222-8988 or visit the website at

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