Coffee hour starts at 10 a.m. each morning. Residents sit quietly in the common house and drink their coffee while catching up with neighbors.
Six acres of land was bought in 1997 and three years later, the first family moved into their unit and Bellingham Cohousing was born.
Gail Kirgis and her husband, Tom Cornwall, have been living in Bellingham Cohousing for four years. Thirty-three units, with two to four bedrooms, house an intergenerational society that relies on residents’ collaboration and participation. Whether they are gardening, landscaping, helping with the maintenance or finances of the community, everyone helps to make it a supportive place to live. Cornwall said you get a broader perspective with the variety of ages living there.
Residents range from young families with children to older couples. Esta Anderson said having children around is fun because they like to be able to babysit and help the parents.
With 77 residents, and many voices and opinions, it sometimes takes a while to come to an agreement on important decisions. However, decisions are managed through “consensus-based decision-making” meetings. “We always get to a decision that feels right,” Kirgis said.
Along with everyday interaction, events like talent shows, performances, retreats, potlucks and birthday celebrations are common. Anderson said they even put on a prom once. Everyone was dressed up, some in real prom dresses, and danced the night away.
Residents commit to nine hours of community participation a month through landscape work parties, cooking as part of a meal team, serving on a committee and more.
Each week, several community meals are cooked by meal preparation teams and everyone enjoys a meal together, often including produce from the community garden. A wetland sits in the back of the property, along with a fruit orchard and beekeeping area. Residents try to keep the wetlands as natural as possible and participate in removing invasive plants and litter.
Anderson said she was drawn to living in Bellingham Cohousing for the sense of community and having a supportive system around her.