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Keeping a Housing Promise to Seniors in Virginia

This is a guest post by Chrissy Fehskens. Chrissy is a Communications Advisor at the AARP Foundation.

Last month, a promise made to longtime residents of Charlottesville Virginia's former Sunrise Trailer Court was fulfilled.  In 2004, private developers looked to purchase land where a 16-unit trailer park stood, jeopardizing the homes of longtime residents, many of them age 50 and older.  Instead, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville ended up purchasing the land, and they promised the nine families, who chose to remain in the community, that they wouldn't be displaced.  Now known as Sunrise Park, the families recently moved into their brand new apartment building now called, "Promise Keeper."

Marion Dudley sweeps the floor of her trailer on moving day as volunteers help her carry boxes into the new apartment in Sunrise Park.

I'm proud to say that I was among the "Moving Weekend" volunteer crew, representing AARP Foundation along with my colleague Tyler Schmith from the Housing Impact Area.  We were joined by many others from local faith based groups, members of the surrounding community, Habitat for Humanity staff, and individuals who answered the call to show up and help out. Under normal circumstances, it would be difficult to convince me to help someone move in 100+ degree heat, but as I became familiar with Sunrise Park in my role as a Communications Advisor at AARP Foundation, I've been fortunate to meet many of the residents, learn their stories, and be welcomed as part of the family. 

While the landscape of Sunrise Park will continue to undergo physical changes as Habitat for Humanity works to complete construction, the heart of the community will always be the residents who call it home. One of those residents is Marion Dudley, lovingly referred to as "the mayor" of Sunrise Park, who welcomed me into her home and shared her hopes for the future;  Becky Gentry, who moved into the Sunrise Trailer Court as a teenager and is now raising her four daughters in the community; and Mr. Bobby Staton, whose look of joy and excitement as he sat on the couch in his new apartment after his belongings were moved was worth every bead of sweat and every flight of stairs to get him settled in!

Sunrise Park is funded in part by AARP Foundation under the direction of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville.

Photo credit by: Ashley Twiggs


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