Feeling Connected at Fort Ethan Allen

Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson
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Mary Wilson understands the value of having great neighbors.

Before moving into her condo at Fort Ethan Allen, she was living with her daughter in the Adirondacks. One February morning, while her daughter was at work, Mary slipped and fell while walking in the driveway. Thankfully she wasn’t hurt, but it dawned on her just how isolated she was. The properties on either side of her were seasonal vacation homes. Who could she have called out to if she needed help?

For Mary, this was one of the many steps along the way that led to a Shared Equity home through Champlain Housing Trust.

Mary spent most of her life across the lake in New York where she and her husband raised a family together. When her husband passed she took a job at a hospital in Massachusetts. She had always been drawn to the ocean, so once retirement arrived she moved into a small condo near the beach. Still, after a few years, she felt something was missing.

“There were no beautiful mountains and Lake Champlain wasn’t there.”

That realization led her back the region and her daughter’s house in the Adirondacks. Mary explored all over to find a place, but like so many others, the high cost of housing limited her options. She learned about CHT through a childhood friend who she is thankful to now have as a neighbor.

Once she purchased and moved into her home, Mary immediately felt at peace.

“I love a front door and a back door. I like to go out. I have flowers in my yard and this place allows me to have a home that is accessible.”

As temperatures warm up, she’s able to walk her dog at Fort Ethan Allen on the Colchester and Essex Town line and point out all of the homes where her friends live.

“At my age, I have a nice community. I’m not alone; I have plenty of people I can relate to— and as you get older that is a big deal.”

Mary immediately appreciated how vibrant the neighborhood was and how it wasn’t just people her age. She saw young people and families walking together.

“I love that aspect of it. A lot of communities they have for older people isolate them into one demographic. Here you’re very much a part of an actual community.”

And it fit her budget. “It wasn’t so expensive that it has prohibited me from enjoying other things in my life.”

In CHT’s Shared Equity program, buyers get assistance to purchase their home which results in a smaller mortgage. In return, they promise to share a portion of the home’s future increase in value with the next owner – in essence, paying it forward – so the home remains affordable forever.

The affordability of the home provided freedom to enjoy other things in life, combined with the vibrant sense of community that exists in her neighborhood is why Mary feels other older people on a fixed income should consider Shared Equity homeownership.

“This allows you as an older person to build a community. There are some wonderful [retirement] communities out there, but they’re pretty expensive. We get to a certain age and have to look at what our options are.”

With warmer weather on the way, Mary is ready for what the spring and summer have to offer. Whether it’s walking her dog, spending time on her porch with neighbors, or volunteering on the Colchester Bike Trail.

She’s also excited to get back to growing her own produce in the community garden. That’s one of the ways she’s been able to connect with her neighbors, and also supports another one of her favorite hobbies: baking.

“I really can’t wait to bake a rhubarb pie this spring.”