More Than a Landlord
By Sarah Methuselah
Apartment hunting can be an intimidating time for any college student, yet one landlord is able to make the house-hunt journey a little bit easier. Julia Richard is the owner of Walden Apartments, a small rental property business based out of Northern Colorado.
Many of Richard’s tenants are students attending the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO. Similar to tenants, Richard also attended the local university, where she received both her bachelors and doctorate degrees. Thus, she recognizes that her apartments are often the first home for many students who move out of the dorms. With this in mind, Richard attempts to create a sense of home and community within her buildings.
In the past, Richard and her husband Paul would host housewarming parties in their own home as an opportunity for their residents to get to know one another. Additionally, tenants used to receive homemade cookies at their doorstep.
Currently, the 30 tenants who call Walden Apartment’s home can expect similar acts of kindness and generosity throughout the year. Richard brings a little bit of sweetness into her tenant’s lives by surprising them with candy bags on Halloween and Easter. “It’s just a small token of happiness,” Richard said with a beaming smile. “Who doesn’t like candy and who doesn’t like to be remembered, right?”
Even the hum and drum of the community laundry room is a place where Richard unexpectedly spreads kindness. She posts encouraging and positive quotes on the laundry room walls. “I just think we all need to be inspired now and then. And the one place people tend to show up on a somewhat regular basis is laundry room, so that’s a great place to put up a little bit of inspiration.”
In many aspects, Richard is a typical landlord. She completes her tenant’s lawn work and helps with any other surprising issues that might arise, such as unexpected plumbing issues or flooded kitchens. Yet, Richard’s contagious positivity and helpfulness sets her apart, and she goes beyond the average duties of any landlord. She consistently waves as her tenants leave for class and work, in addition to assisting them at all hours of the day.
“It’s really been fun for us to run the apartments because our niche tends to be college students and we love college students,” Richard said. “We’ve been doing this for thirty years and have met the nicest, greatest young people ever. That’s part of our deal, is to remind people in our community how grateful we are for our young adults and what they’re doing.”
Richard’s background as an educator has laid the foundation for her acts of kindness. Richard taught for twenty years in the city of Greeley and the surrounding areas. For Richard, her career as an educator meant something more. She worked to educate the next generation because she felt it was her moral obligation. Richard views education as an opportunity to level the playing field for all people. Prior to investing in rental properties, teaching was one way for Richard to make the world a better place.
During her career as an educator, Richard realized that she was able to create a strong bond with her students by the end of the school year. She wanted to create a similar atmosphere for those living in her rental properties. Richard strongly believes in the importance of having healthy and positive relationships with her tenants. Her positive relationships have proven to come in handy for the occasional tough conversations with tenants.
Richard strives to reinforce the sense of community within her rental properties. Similar to the community created in the classroom, many of the tenants are able to feel connected and welcome because of Richard. The simple act of leaving candy bags for her tenants puts Richard in high spirits and fills her heart with joy. She is overcome with happiness at the thought that her tenants feel cared for, while also getting to munch on delicious chocolate candies.
Every day, Richard actively chooses kindness. For Richard, kindness is contagious and she has been greatly impacted throughout her life by the small kind acts of others. After Richard graduated with her bachelors, she struggled to find a job in the education field, and in the meantime worked at a summer nature day camp. A woman at the camp, Carole, recognized that Richard needed help applying for jobs. Out of selfless kindness, Carole invited Richard into her home and helped her fill out her resume, as well as apply to her first job.
“She helped pull everything together. She had no cause to do that,” Richard said. “We were coworkers at a nature day camp. And she was probably seven years older than me, and she had been teaching for awhile, so she knew the area. That was life changing for me.”
The woman who helped Richard made a profound impact on her, and helped to change her life course. Now, the domino effect of kindness has propelled Richard into a life of compassion and kindness. The gentle smiles and surprising positivity of strangers have seeped into Richard’s soul. She actively spreads kindness and positivity to her tenants and beyond.