Exeter River Co-op connects around children
Linda DeGagne and Amy Cook are the unofficial, unfunded, but not unappreciated social committee
of Exeter River MHP Cooperative, N.H.’s largest resident-owned community (ROC).
The co-op’s size (392 homes) and sprawl (seven-plus road miles) make it a hard place to pull members
together. But despite the pandemic, or maybe because of it, the community has gotten into the flow around its children, and fun.
Easter 2020 arrived four weeks after the state closed schools in response to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. With many parents working from home and family routines disrupted, children’s lives were upended.
A co-op member called Linda and said, “Hey, I have a husband with a bunny costume. What can we do?” she recalls. They quickly planned a candy drop, and on Easter weekend an oversized bunny roamed the co-op’s streets leaving sanitized bags of candy in driveways.
The bunny was greeted by colorful “welcome” signs in windows and chalk drawings and messages in
driveways. Parents posted photos of thrilled young faces online. “It was the smallest sense of normalcy
in the beginning of everything,” says Amy.
It was also the beginning of regular children’s events. Amy and Linda got an ice cream truck to visit on the last day of school. They held swimming pool parties, an ice cream social, and outdoor movie nights. As Christmas approached, they dressed as elves and accompanied Santa on a flatbed “sleigh,” delivering presents to the ROC’s children.
The co-op’s residents noticed. When the rocketing price of cleaning supplies threatened the swimming pool’s
opening this spring, Linda posted a call for help. “I said we won’t have enough in the budget to cover everything. We’re looking for paper towels, sanitizer, hand soap, toilet paper . . . ”
Members responded with enough supplies—cases of paper goods, chlorine tablets, umbrellas, even a new
skimmer net—to last into next summer. Volunteers mowed the grass in the pool area, painted the picnic
tables, and patched cement.
“Glow in the Dark” pool parties, the idea of Linda’s daughter, Crystal MacKenzie, were a huge hit this
summer, as was a sunny mid-August barbecue, complete with a donated bounce house and games, to thank all the children and adults who volunteered or contributed.
One event at a time, Exeter River is getting into the flow.
This article was first published in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund’s 2021 annual report.