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Success Stories

Rebuilding a Family and Community Legacy in Northampton County

Barbara Bowen
Homeownership Month 2023
Cora Suzette Lee on the front porch of her new home.

While Virginia’s Eastern Shore is known for its majestic sunsets, beaches and rural country living, a short drive off the main roads of Northampton County reveals a persistent poverty area dotted with aging homes that residents have little or no means to repair. Many properties are uninhabitable due to deferred maintenance and passed down through generations in a derelict condition.

Cora Suzette Lee resides in one of these communities and, like many of her neighbors, has experienced adversity and hardship. When a life-changing event prompted a move into her grandmother’s abandoned home, Lee embarked on a quest to renovate the property for herself and her daughter. Unfortunately, the situation was far worse than she could have imagined. Termite infestation had caused significant structural damage, the foundation was compromised, and the drain fields had begun to fail.

The extensive repair costs were far greater than Lee could afford on her fixed income. Knowing she could not do this alone, Lee began researching agencies that offered aid for home repairs. Between 2015 and 2021, she applied to every known entity and organization and patiently waited as her home continued to deteriorate around her. In mid-2021, a friend mentioned USDA Rural Development (RD) and put her in contact with Senior Loan Specialist Kerry Crowley. Though her grandmother’s home couldn’t be salvaged, Lee did receive funding to construct a safe and sanitary new structure on the same lot.

“I finally found the help I couldn’t get but felt I deserved at USDA RD,” said Lee. “God granted the desires of my heart and helped my family get a fresh start with a new house I can be proud of.” 

Lee hopes that telling her story will encourage others to persevere and move past any embarrassment about their living conditions to seek the help they need. Eastern Shore residents can learn more about the Single Family Housing Direct Home Loan, also known as a 502 Direct Loan, by visiting our website or contacting Bobbie Jo Wert, Area Specialist, at bobbie.wert@usda.gov or (757) 346-3161.

Before photo of the original house.

Her grandmother’s house (shown above) couldn’t be saved, but Cora Suzette Lee's family legacy
is still being preserved in a new home built on the same lot with help from USDA RD.

Obligation Amount:
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • Virginia: District 2