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The Spirit of Volunteerism, Alive with Michigan RD Staff

Posted by James Turner, Michigan State Director in Rural
Jul 28, 2015
USDA Rural Development volunteers at the end of the day
USDA Rural Development volunteers at the end of the day. From left: Paul Bristol, Katherin Farwell, Diana Perkins, homeowner Susan Cullen’s son Terrance, Susan Cullen, Aileen Waldron, Jane Smith

One of the things that sets USDA Rural Development apart is the dedication of its employees.  This week they provided a great example of how they are willing to go out of their way to assist people in need by helping to repair the home of Susan Cullen in Big Rapids.

Susan is blind and has struggled to keep up her home. She expressed her concerns to Area Specialist Aileen Waldron and wondered what could to be done to make it more accessible and complete needed repairs.

Aileen told her about our Section 504 Single Family Housing Repair Program, which could finance window, door and furnace replacement.  Susan applied and received a $7,500 grant to complete the work.

But our help didn’t end there.  Aileen also reached out to local agencies and businesses as well as enlisting the support of USDA Rural Development employees to help with landscaping, rubbish removal and accessibility.

As a result, the Big Rapids Housing Commission provided building materials, Frank Cole Builders of Cedar Springs provided labor and construction oversight, the City of Big Rapids removed debris, and Great Lakes Landscape Supply of Cedar Springs donated shrubs for landscaping.

In addition to Aileen, USDA Rural Development employees Jane Smith, Paul Bristol, Katherin Farwell and Diana Perkins as well as Aileen’s daughter Vanessa volunteered their own time to help.

Perhaps the most rewarding thing about this story was the way in which it touched Susan.  She told me that she never expected anything like this kind of response. 

As a state director, I mostly see the big picture; total numbers for projects and dollars allocated.  This project showed another side of what we do, beyond the dollars and cents. 

USDA Rural Development has extraordinary employees and I am honored to work with them.

The back entrance before and after, with homeowner Susan Cullen.
The back entrance before and after, with homeowner Susan Cullen.
Category/Topic: Rural