As most staff continue to telework, it is important to acknowledge that dependable program delivery is still the norm, and with the same exceptional customer service that Rural Development staff have become known for. Despite COVID-related challenges, the often life-changing programs the agency provides are making an impact on our rural people, businesses, and communities every day.
As we celebrate June as National Homeownership Month, one particular Maine homeowner comes to mind. At a time when things seemed most challenging, with a pandemic threatening the globe, Nathalie Jones, a single mom, loving daughter, and nurse, was assisted in making her dream of Homeownership come true.
Nathalie Jones is a single mother of five: Cortnie 18, Julie 14, Connie 11, Jaylie 6, and Corrie 4. She is also a caregiver to her mother, 77, Dieula, whose health has been declining in recent months. The large family had been occupying small apartment in Westbrook, which put a roof over their heads but according to Nathalie “we were on top of each other.”
Her dream of providing a home for her family began two and a half years ago with Westbrook Housing Authority referring her to USDA Rural Development. She remembers her credit wasn’t great, but says that staff member Margaret Popp in the Lewiston Area Office was “very patient,” helping her learn how to improve her credit so she could pursue homeownership.
Nathalie knows first-hand about the heartaches and challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic. She sees it every day at her job working for a rehabilitation facility/nursing home where a large number of residents tested positive for the virus, and four of them passed away. Nathalie recalls losing those patients, saying “it was very hard. We did our best for them and we never get used to losing them.”
Despite her workplace being hit hard by the wave of Coronavirus cases, Nathalie was assisted by USDA Rural Development Specialist Wendy Palmer, who in Nathalie’s words “worked so hard” to help her though the homebuying process.
On April 16, 2020, Nathalie and her family officially became the proud homeowners of a beautiful home in Gorham through the Single-Family Housing Direct Program. The new home is very spacious, with 2,422 square feet of space, and a bedroom for each of them. It has a large yard with over an acre that the kids can play in, and a pool that Nathalie is working on revamping. She adores her woodstove, which will help her keep her family warm through the cold Maine winters. Rural Development also assisted the family in financing $7,000 of repairs that once completed will include: updated electrical, roof repair, railings, deck repair, fire wall and door, smoke detectors, plumbing, and added insulation.
Through the heartache and scary times of the pandemic, Nathalie says coming home to her very own place at the end of a long day is “such a blessing.” You made my dreams come true. It is heaven, and I just love everything about my new home. Rural Development staff were right there to guide me, every step of the way.”
USDA Rural Development makes many heartwarming stories of homeownership come true through its Single-Family Housing Programs. In Maine, USDA Rural Development assisted 1,336 families or individuals in FY 19, for a total of $202 million through its homeownership programs last Fiscal Year.