Jan Peterson Special to the News-Leader
Published 6:45 PM EDT Sep 12, 2018
Mary and Mike Walker are no strangers to giving — not just of their money, but time.
In January, for example, they volunteered for a Project Hope mission trip to Nicaragua where Mary, a registered nurse, lent her expertise.
Sharing their good fortune with those who are less fortunate is just a habit they’ve cultivated throughout their marriage.
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But Mary gives all credit to Mike for their most recent gift: a tiny home for a resident of Eden Village, a project to house chronically disabled people who are homeless.
Mary says the idea occurred to Mike after a conversation with former Springfield Mayor Jim O’Neal.
“(Mike) said, ‘You know, we do mission work and we help out with charities, but that’s something we can really get behind,” she says.
Mary says the idea of helping was particularly attractive because it offered a way for them to make a tangible difference in the community.
With donations or fleeting volunteer opportunities, “we don’t see the results like seeing someone unlocking a door and walking into their new home,” Mary says.
The couple worked with Linda Brown, founder of Gathering Tree and Eden Village, to select the house.
The Walkers chose the colors and countertops and other details of the home, but when it came to decorating, they handed the reins over to Linda and Jeremy Rabe, co-host of KOLR’s “Ozarks Live.”
“They just did a fantastic job,” Mary says.
Mary says the house will soon be home to a man who is making the transition from homeless to housed.
The décor has an industrial farmhouse sensibility, with plenty of metal and wood, and veers toward a steampunk vibe in some areas.
“You know, it’s really stylish décor, but it’s masculine,” Mary says.
The roughly 400-square-foot house — one of 30 planned for the village — feels far more spacious thanks to high ceilings, abundant natural light and a clerestory window.
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Each of the three rooms — living/kitchen, bedroom and bath — is outfitted with full-size appliances and furnishings. Clever storage solutions include a built-in entertainment unit, three closets, a built-in dresser and more storage in the bathroom.
The covered porch in front offers a pleasant spot to watch the world go by, and the gated village is filled with spaces to interact with other residents.
The community building offers a communal space to watch a movie, entertain, dine with others or attend recovery meetings. Also in the community building are a commercial-size kitchen, a free laundry area, a computer area, medical clinic space and offices for caseworkers.
Cherie Roderick, community coordinator at Eden Village, says that sense of community and support is vital to helping residents settle in and succeed. “Without that, if they don’t have that community, housing just doesn’t really matter,” she says.
The village will be 90 percent solar-powered and has rainwater collection stations to water raised-bed gardens that are interspersed between houses. Also included are abundant picnic benches, shade trees, a storm shelter, greenhouse and even a memorial garden for those who wish to have their ashes interred there.
Mary says she loves watching the village evolve. Each time she visits, she says there is a new house in or fresh landscaping done. “It’s such a cute little community. I just love it,” she says.
Mary says she most looks forward to seeing the difference the home they donated makes in lives and in the community.
“My big hope is that (the new resident) can learn to be a part of the community and feel welcome and at home,” she says.
We are always on the lookout for great houses — small, large, elegant or eclectic, they all have a story. If you would like to suggest a home — a friend’s, a family member’s or your own — email Jan Peterson at [email protected]
WANT TO HELP?
Eden Village is always looking for volunteers. If you’d like to pitch in with anything from supporting new residents to landscaping or helping to provide community meals, just go to gatheringtree.org and click on “volunteer.” Donations also are welcome and can be made through the nonprofit’s website.
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