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MRAAA helps shared housing resident return to love of gardening

Steve Harmic

May 2, 2023

Charlie Cummings is ready to sow seeds in his new garden at his home in Curwensville, made possible by MRAAA staff.

CURWENSVILLE, PA. – Charlie Cummings is enjoying life in retirement at a shared house in Curwensville owned by the Mature Resources Area Agency on Aging. One of several such properties owned by the agency, shared housing matches seniors with roommates who have common interests and could use some support around the home with various tasks.  By co-living and helping each other, seniors continue to live independently in a home setting.


“I like it here, I really do,” Charlie said about the home he has shared for two years with house mate, Ron, in Curwensville Borough. For a self-proclaimed country boy who spent his life on a 100-acre farm and making a living as a logger, though, there was just one thing retired life was missing.


“I had a garden all my life when I lived at home. I like to watch things grow, and I enjoy the fresh produce instead of buying from the store all the time,” Charlie said. “Besides, it’s too expensive.”



MRAAA Chief Executive Officer Kathy Gillespie, through conversation with Charlie, learned of his love of gardening. Gillespie then shared this information with Chief Operating Officer Ethen Tarner who also shares this passion. It was at this point that Tarner put a plan into motion. Tarner shared “The whole idea behind the shared housing concept is to provide consumers, not just with a place to live, but with a real home. It should feel like home and give people the opportunity to continue to experience the pieces of life that they enjoy most. For Charlie, a garden makes it a home.”


Fortunately, there was an existing garden bed adjacent to the house. It had not been planted for years, however, and required some attention. MRAAA Facilities, Property, and Project Manager Jim Cutler and his crew set about pulling weeds and rocks from the plot, prepping it for Tarner to bust sod with his rototiller.


“Charlie was so happy when we showed up with the rototiller,” Tarner said. “He smiled ear to ear knowing he’d have his hands in the dirt again soon.”


Charlie happily assisted with hand tools, making plans for his new garden before the very first row was even tilled.


“I’m going to put in tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, onions…” Charlie imagined taking inventory of his bounty through a grin.


“Let me know what you want to plant, and we’ll get it together, Charlie,” Tarner said.


“I missed having a garden,” Charlie confessed. “You just miss it after all the years of having one. Back home, we had really decent ground to have a garden.  We’d always put leaves down on the plot in the fall then till them in in the spring; the leaves would break up the clay and put nutrients in the ground.”


Charlie is already making plans to share his harvests with friends.


Home sharing is a long-term alternative to nursing homes or institutional living. Individuals benefit from security, companionship, independence, help in emergencies, cost savings, and sustainability.  In addition, episodes of loneliness, helplessness, social isolation, and symptoms of depression can potentially be alleviated in a home sharing environment. Each home is unique, is found in an actual neighborhood, and is designed to blend into the fabric of the community. 


For more information, call 814-765-2696 or visit

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