Couple helps build community at CommonBond apartments

| Susan Klemond | February 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

Elizabeth, third from left, and Tom Langlois, residents of CommonBond Communities’ Century Trails senior housing, talk with Edmond Taye, left, Deaira Gresham and Ezekiel Olakunle, during a potluck at the CommonBond housing campus, which also features townhomes. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Every morning, Elizabeth Lang­lois, 77, prays for her neighbors as they come and go outside the second-floor Maplewood apartment she shares with her husband, retired deacon Tom Langlois, 80.

“I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Why am I looking out this window?’ I just really know it’s because I’m supposed to pray for all these people here,” Elizabeth said.

People are a big reason why the Langloises believe they came full circle by moving in October into the newly opened Cen­tury Trails, a Common­Bond Com­mu­­ni­ties affor­d­able housing development for seniors.

On track to receive LEED certification for energy and environmental design, Century Trails offers 40 handicap accessible units for seniors,?and features a community room and onsite laundry.

The couple hopes to build community with residents of another nearby Com­mon­Bond Com­­mu­ni­ties development called Trail’s Edge — which features 48 townhomes for families — just as they did when they lived with their seven children in a St. Paul housing de­velopment nearly four decades ago.

This year, Com­mon­Bond Com­mu­­nities is celebrating its 40th anniversary as an affordable housing provider. The organization owns or ma­n­a­ges 5,000 affordable rental apart­ments and townhomes through­out 50 cities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, according to its website.

Catholic connection

Founded by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Urban Affairs Com­mission in 1971, Common­Bond Communities is now a non-profit corporation that continues to be connected with the archdiocese, while bringing together business, government and non-profit sectors on development projects. With its current capital campaign, the organization is raising funds to build or preserve 4,000 housing units.

The Langloises had their first experience with affordable housing when they moved their family from St. Paul’s East Side to a townhome in Torre de San Miguel Homes, a development on the West Side of St. Paul originally designed to be a cooperative community. At that time, it was not managed by Common­Bond Com­munities.

“We felt really called by God to go down there and bring our family,” Elizabeth said.

The couple helped develop a sense of community at the 142-unit development, always keeping a 30-cup coffee pot on and encouraging residents to stop by. But the cooperative never developed because of management problems, she said.

While at Torre de San Miguel Homes, Tom answered the call to the diaconate and was or­dained in 1976. The Langloises served in St. Paul and North Branch parishes and became accustomed to downsizing.

“We simplified a lot,” Deacon Tom said. “We’ve kept the things that mean a lot to us. We haven’t really lost anything but a bunch of stuff.”

In 1980, the Langloises moved to a single family home in St. Paul. Several years after they left, Com­monBond Communities took over management of Torre de San Miguel Homes.

Creating community, again

After they retired from active ministry in 2007 and found climbing stairs more difficult, the Langloises learned about Century Trails and were accepted into the new development. The new apartment is bright and beautiful, Elizabeth said. “I think CommonBond makes a nice place with dignity for people who sometimes are maybe in the last stages of life.”

Also evident in CommonBond Communities’ work are values of human dignity, community, generosity and care for the vulnerable, said Paul Fate, president and CEO.

“The organization really embodies a lot of Catholic social teaching,” he said. “I think the whole notion of how the most vulnerable are faring is at the core of why we do what we do.”

The Langloises no longer provide the coffee but they’re helping residents get to know each other at weekly gatherings. CommonBond Com­munities has provided the environment for this community to develop, Elizabeth said.

“I think they are very aware of people needing this connection with other people,” she said. “They want people to know that we’re not alone.”

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