Elizabeth McCartney never gives up, and she never gives in. A single mom who raised six children on her own, she ascended the career ladder from grocery-store worker to medical researcher through hard work and intensive education culminating in a master’s degree. But it was the past few years that truly tested Elizabeth’s fortitude and resolve like no other, with cruelly layered tragedies that seemed to never end. Fortunately, USDA Rural Development (RD) funding from a home repair grant—as well as the friendships it inspired—provided some relief amid her anguish.
Apart from her own struggles, Elizabeth was familiar with the challenges people faced in rural communities when they didn’t have the support they needed. At New England Youth Services, she was a ‘surrogate mother’ for a dozen or so homeless men aged 18-25, some with autism, dedicating her time and efforts to helping them lead independent, rewarding lives. She didn't realize she would soon need help for herself.
“In the first week of March 2020, my friend found me face down in my living room, unconscious,” Elizabeth describes. “I was rushed to North Country Hospital with COVID, then airlifted to UVM. I was in a coma for three weeks, not expected to wake up, and the hospital staff prepared my children for my death. While in the coma, my foot became infected and they had to amputate my leg. While rehabbing, I lost my job in May, along with my insurance and benefits. Then my sister died from COVID in June. In December, I suffered a stroke which limited my ability even more.”
As if those blows weren’t enough, Elizabeth’s plumbing was leaking and causing extensive damage, and she didn’t have an easy way into her home. That’s when she called USDA RD and spoke with Housing Specialists Kimberly Smith and Ashley Mattos, who suggested a solution.
USDA RD’s Single Family Housing Repair Loan & Grant, also known as the Section 504 Home Repair program, provides loans to low-income homeowners to repair, improve or modernize their homes, and grants to elderly low-income homeowners to address health and safety hazards. Elizabeth was eligible for one of these grants.
Elizabeth said, “When Kim assisted me, she was so nice and empathetic; she understood where I was. Elizabeth McCartney has taken the worst of what life has to offer, and with help from a 504 home repair grant, it will become easier with a new ramp and updates to plumbing coming. Then Ashely came in, setting everything up for me, and they just both gave me hope. I finally got some obligations met and had a sense of moving forward. They took such good care of me and I will be forever grateful to them. There are about nine things that could’ve killed me, but I’m still here, and thanks to RD, I’m not going anywhere.”