The idea of a retirement community of mutual assistance and late-life spirituality was conceived and nourished by a committee of the Federation of Communities in Service (FOCIS). FOCIS was formed in 1967 by a group of women working in Appalachia in areas of community service and development. The group expanded to include men as well as women, and as some members approached retirement age, the question of forming a retirement community arose. A committee was formed in 1995, using the title FOCIS FUTURES.
The committee learned about the Cohousing movement, and decided that would be a good plan to follow. The committee agreed on certain values, which are now expressed in the Statement of Mission and values. The group identified strongly with the ideas on late-life spirituality expressed by Drew Leder in an article Spiritual Community in Later Life: A Modest Proposal (Journal of Aging Studies, Vol. 10, Number 2, pp. 103-116, 1996). These ideas are expressed in several of the documents available on this site.
The FOCIS Futures Committee, after much research within the Appalachian area, decided to locate in Abingdon, Virginia. Dene Peterson located a piece of property which the committee agreed would be ideal. To purchase the property, a corporation was formed, using the name Trailview Development Corporation. (The property borders on the Virginia Creeper Trail, a former railroad bed, now a walking, running, biking trail.)
The Retirement Research Foundation of Chicago, the Foundation that had funded the work of Drew Leder on late-life spirituality, awarded to FOCIS a three-year grant for predevelopment expenses. The name adopted for the project was ElderSpirit Community, a term that Drew Leder used in his proposal. The beginning date for the grant was July, 1999.
A Board of Directors for Trailview Development Corporation was formed, as well as a local Advisory Board. An architect was engaged, and the building committee and prospective residents had input for the design. Dene Peterson, who served as project manager, began contacts with government housing agencies to find ways to accomplish the goal of affordable housing.
Jean Marie Luce, community coordinator, worked on gathering a community of people interested in late-life spirituality and a community of mutual support. An important part of this effort was teaching classes at the local College for Older Adults, which Jean Marie helped to establish. The work of the two staff members and volunteers has brought ElderSpirit Community into reality.
The Board of Directors for Trailview Development Corporation engaged the Highlands Group, P.C. as architects. The potential residents participated in the site design and floor plans. Dene Peterson served as project director. With the help of the Board, they were able to raise the money from public and private sources and obtain a construction loan. Community Housing Partners were hired as general contractors. Now we have 29 homes of mixed-income housing that allows elders to keep their independence and their money.