Housing builds community and provides camaraderie

Judy Wolfe, Janet Peterson and Barbara Hamby share a laugh together Thursday morning outside their homes in Buckley’s White River Senior Housing neighborhood. - To view or buy photos go to    Photos by Brenda Sexton
Judy Wolfe, Janet Peterson and Barbara Hamby share a laugh together Thursday morning outside their homes in Buckley’s White River Senior Housing neighborhood.
— image credit: To view or buy photos go to Photos by Brenda Sexton

T hursday morning Judy Wolfe, Janet Peterson, Barbara Hamby and Mary O’Connor strolled outside the doors of their brightly-painted homes in Buckley’s White River Senior Housing neighborhood and met up for a little conversation and plenty of laughs.

It’s a moment White River Housing Association President Ann Trullinger and others who were part of the planning process have been waiting 12 years to witness.

“It turned out nicer than I imagined,” Trullinger said of the 19, 540-square-foot, one-bedroom, low-income renting units, which were dedicated in March. “When you envision HUD or low-income housing you picture barracks. These are not like that, these are very nice and individual.”

The White River Housing Association was formed in 1998 to provide affordable senior housing in the Buckley area. Nearly three years ago, it was awarded a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Grant, Washington Housing Trust Grant and block grant funding from Pierce County to build the complex on eight acres on the south side known as the Miller property.

With persistence and additional funding from several local bodies, the doors opened to residents like Stella Story and Carolyn McDaniel in December.

“I wasn’t even going to apply,” said Story, who has lived in Buckley since 1943 and was nudged into making the move by her daughter. After her husband died, Story sold the family farm and moved into a smaller place. After a few years there, she downsized again, this time to an apartment, but the rent was high. The White River Senior Housing project was the perfect answer and came at the right time.

“I’m very pleased,” she said. “I really like it. I like the rent, it’s about half what I was paying before. It’s cozy and comfortable. There are always people around you can visit with. I like living on my own.

“I just love it. The people are friendly. I think it’s just perfect for senior people.”

Carolyn McDaniel, who moved from her 29-foot travel trailer at Uncle John’s RV Park, also enjoys the company of her neighbors, as well as the spacious accomodations and the proximity to her favorite haunts.

At her new home there’s plenty of room for her and Willie, her cat, to roam. There’s a nice porch to sit and visit with her neighbors and she’s within walking distance of the Buckley Senior Center and her church. The senior center sends its van by three times a week to help out with errands.

“There’s more room, dependable utilities and friendly people,” McDaniel said. “I haven’t met anyone in here that hasn’t had a smile and a, “Hi. How are you?”

A regular at the Buckley Senior Center, McDaniel put her name on the list a couple years ago.

“It was worth the wait,” she said. “Everything works out well for my lifestyle. I enjoyed my time there at Uncle John’s RV, but it was time to move on to something else.”

O’Connor, the complex’s on-site manager through Legacy Management Group who lives in one of the units, said it’s a reoccurring theme among those who have live there – they like the independence, but also the security of knowing someone like herself is nearby.

Each unit has a kitchen, roomy bathroom and space for a washer and dryer. A community room is available, and soon a nurse will make regular checks from an office on site.

Another feature, is of course, the cost. Rent varies, but in most cases is affordable at approximately $451 a month.

Every unit is currently occupied with 10 on the waiting list. O’Connor, who has been working in the field for many years, spending the past four in Bainbridge, said this type of senior housing is gaining in popularity.

“My personal observation,” O’Connor said. “More seniors need a place like this.”

White River Senior Housing is for those 62 years old and older. O’Connor said the aging population is staying active younger and looking for a place that offers a transition between the home where they raised a family and assisted living. A home requires maintenance and with children who are busy working, raising their families and taking care of their own homes, the burden of homeownership is often too great.

Affordable senior housing bridges that gap.

“These are very active people,” O’Connor said, seeing the wave of Baby Boomers looking for options. “Sixty-two is quite young.”

There’s already a second nonprofit group, White River Senior Services, eyeing the remaining property to put up more units, but there has to be a need. That’s why the waiting list is so important, Trullinger said.

“To show there’s a need in the community,” she said. “That was our battle all along.”

“It’s a very nice community,” O’Connor said, and with a waiting list of 10 and growing, “it shows there’s interest in the area for affordable housing.”

Many are hoping it won’t be another 12-year process.

The townhome-like, ground-floor units, didn’t come in time for all, O’Connor pointed out. In the foyer of the community room hangs an oil painting of the mountain honoring the artist Lilly Barton, who was on the list, but died in October 2008.

To join the waiting list or for applications visit the Buckley Senior Center, 811 Main St., or by calling O’Connor at 360-829-6426.

Reach Brenda Sexton at or 360-802-8206.

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