You won’t find too many people who love their new roof as much as Linda Lawson. The shiny blue metal sheets not only appeal to her artistic sensibilities but also give her a greater sense of security as a barrier from the storms of life.
The freelance photographer was already living on a low income when water began dripping through the ceiling fan in her Wytheville, Va., home in August of 2021. The threat of an electrical fire from the water and space heaters in the residence added to her sense of unease.
Lawson collected quotes but couldn’t secure any payment terms and reached out to HOPE, Inc., which serves as a packager for USDA Rural Development loan applications. Housing Counselor Jordan Atwood determined that Lawson was eligible for a Single Family Housing Repair Grant, also known as the Section 504 Home Repair program, and put her in touch with Wytheville Loan Specialist Luke Garner who helped get her approved for a $10,000 grant in late 2021.
“We’re trying to get help to people who really need it and wouldn’t be able to go to too many other places to get it,” says Garner. “That’s why we clock in every day. We were able to address her situation and return the home to a livable state.”
Lawson had hoped to purchase the roof and install a new heating system for added comfort and safety. When available funding didn’t cover both repairs, Lawson came up with the needed balance to acquire a single mini-split unit to help heat and cool the primary living area downstairs.
“I didn’t know this grant was available until I reached out to HOPE, Inc.,” says Lawson. “They’re wonderful to work with and are empathetic to your situation. I still use a space heater in my living room in the coldest months, but the mini split helps a lot and has even lowered my electric bill. I’m very grateful to have it.”
Lawson believes in “paying it forward” and has given back to the community through various projects over her 25 years in Wytheville. She freely shares her story with others who might benefit from USDA programs.
“The folks at HOPE and USDA made me feel like I had a concerned family that wanted to help, and I can’t express how good that felt,” said Lawson. “Acceptance is really a basic human need that makes us all feel respected and more confident.”
The beautiful new roof with a 40-year guarantee is now the talk of the neighborhood. The color choice is growing on some early skeptics with one neighbor enjoying the light and color changes from her porch across the street.
Lawson takes pride in maintaining a tidy exterior and has planted flowers and painted her porch chairs an eye-catching buttercup yellow to match her gratitude and add even more cheerful color for the neighbors to enjoy!
Caption: Linda Lawson shows off her new roof and freshly painted chairs on the front porch of her Wytheville, Va., home (photo contributed by homeowner).