USDA grant repairs roof

Amie VanNice was able to repair the roof on her house through a USDA housing grant. With the help of Thrive Allen County, she was able to apply for the grant and organize the project.



April 26, 2024 - 3:15 PM

Amie VanNice recently received a new roof for the home she has owned nearly 20 years, thanks to a USDA rural housing grant administered by Thrive Allen County. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Amie VanNice bought a house nearly 20 years ago when she was a young, new mom filled with dreams about what she could do to create a home for her family. As the years passed, the now 99-year-old house became more of a challenge to maintain.

The dilapidated roof couldn’t be insured. The front porch is full of holes and rotted wood. The exterior could use a fresh coat of paint.

VanNice is a single mom with three children, ages 20, 12 and 5. She works as a paraprofessional for the elementary school, and picks up extra work whenever possible.

“Every time I think I’m getting ahead, something comes up,” she said. “You don’t think when you’re buying your first home, you’re going to have to do so much maintenance to keep it up. Sometimes I think I’d be better off renting to have a landlord to handle things.”

A grant recently helped VanNice and nine other local homeowners make vital repairs to their homes. For VanNice, it meant a new roof.

“I felt like crying, I was so overwhelmed. It’s such a weight off my shoulders,” VanNice said. “We’re safe. We’re protected.”

VanNice worked with Thrive Allen County’s Summer Boren and Patrick Zirjacks to apply for the grant and organize the project.

The repairs were made possible by a $73,000 rural housing grant from the USDA. Thrive administered the grant to meet a variety of needs aimed at improving homes for health and safety. That could include something as simple as installing smoke detectors and grab bars in showers, to building walk-in showers, ramps for those who are handicapped and new roofs such as VanNice received. Many received a new roof.

“The need for housing is something we come up against in every community in this county,” Dan Carroll, Thrive’s communications director, said. “This is a way to help residents stay in their existing homes.”

Recipients included single moms like VanNice, those who are taking care of elderly family members, those with disabilities or mobility issues, grandparents raising grandchildren, and an Army veteran.

About 19 homeowners applied for the grant, and Thrive was able to help more than half, Boren said. Applicants had to meet eligibility guidelines such as income requirements, having insurance and being current on property taxes. Zirjacks conducted research on the properties to make sure they qualified.

Thrive actually received the grant and took applications in 2022 but it took months to find available contractors and obtain supplies. So far, three projects have been completed; seven more are in progress.

“The scarcity of contractors was a barrier, especially because we try to hire local companies,” Boren said.

She noted those who received new roofs, like VanNice, often were not able to have their homes fully insured because of the condition of the roof and “now they can be covered by homeowner’s insurance and they’re guaranteed a good roof for a lot of years.”

“To me, the roof is a starting point when you are renovating a home. You have to make sure everything inside is protected,” Boren said.

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