Meet Rosha McGill, one of the first residents of The Retreat at Renaissance and a dedicated community advocate. The Retreat is a 110-unit apartment building for senior and disabled citizens located within the Renaissance mixed-income housing development. The Retreat opened in the fall of 2013, when Ms. McGill moved in.
Prior to settling in at Renaissance, Rosha had a successful career as a legal representative in North Carolina. Raised in what she calls “upper-poverty”, Rosha received a law degree from Georgetown University and became manager of a Legal Aid program branch in Hendrickson, North Carolina. In that role, she provided legal assistance to people living below the poverty line, helping them find housing and employment, acquire food stamps, MedicAid, and social security, and advocating for victims of domestic violence. While working for Legal Aid and raising a ten-year-old daughter, she adopted a baby boy from nearby Warren County. Rosha moved her family to Charlotte so that her daughter could attend high school here.
Rosha opened a private legal practice which she ran successfully for seven years. Unfortunately, she was confronted with a series of health issues and was forced to close the practice. She did find employment at Bank of America in a quazi-legal position, though was laid off when, after surgery to remedy carpal tunnel syndrome in both of her hands, her short-term disability coverage expired. She was in her fifties and raising a son in middle school. Thankfully she found a job at Prudential, where she earned five different financial licenses. Because of her recurring health issues, she was unable to keep up with the pace of work and had to leave the company.
Though Rosha had not planned to retire until she was 70, she found herself with few options. At the age of 60, she was evicted from her apartment because she could not pay the rent. She found and applied for a subsidized housing unit in Charlotte but was denied because she was evicted from her previous residence. Rosha took legal action. In the 12 months of proceedings that followed, the unit was leased to another tenant and Rosha was moved to the bottom of the housing wait list. Legal Aid, who was aware of her struggle, asked Rosha to speak at a Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) board meeting about what she was going through. It was then that the Charlotte Housing Authority helped Rosha find a home at The Retreat at Renaissance.
But that is just the beginning of Rosha’s Renaissance story. Once she settled in at The Retreat, Rosha wanted to do something to benefit the mental and physical health of her friends and neighbors. Noting that retired and elderly people often struggle to find purpose in later life, Rosha endeavored to help them find it. Working closely with RWCI Director of Programs Christian Friend, Rosha coordinates exercise classes for the seniors several days a week (sponsored through RWCI). Several residents have been able to give up their walkers and wheelchairs since they began participating in the program. Aside from the physical benefits, gathering several times a week also helps the seniors socially and mentally. Rosha has also helped to organize a book club, Bible study, arts and crafts, emergency preparedness presentations, CPR training, and even the occasional musical event (sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library). She notes that many other residents have their own unique talents – one is a published author, another an avid golfer – that she hopes to translate into some kind of community volunteerism, particularly with children who live in the area.
Rosha sees herself as a facilitator, drawing on her professional legal experience to advocate for the other residents. She founded and leads a community group known as SWAAG (Seniors With Attitude And Grace), and has solicited local businesses for donations on the group’s behalf. So far they have purchased equipment for their exercise classes and hope to order t-shirts for the group soon. Rosha was pleasantly surprised how enthusiastic local business owners have been when approached to support her efforts; they want the neighborhood to succeed more than anyone. Many of the businesses are family-owned and have been in the West Boulevard Corridor for 15-30 years, with much vested interest in improving the neighborhood. Rosha admits that she struggles to get men to participate in group activities, and she’s still concerned about the perception of the neighborhood. She wants to see the area be successful without moving people out of their homes, by bringing in new businesses (specifically a grocery store) and making it more walkable, especially for seniors. All things considered, Rosha is happy to be living at The Retreat and has created her own purpose in helping others find theirs.