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King George director brings millions of state and federal grants to the county for low-income, elderly and disabled residents
Snow covers a cluster homes at Angelwood II, a development for low-income
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By CATHY DYSON
Fronce Wardlaw has helped bring more than $13 million in affordable housing to King George County--without asking for a dime of county funds.
The energetic 47-year-old directs Project FAITH, a nonprofit housing group that has been around for 10 years. Many times in the early days, Wardlaw sat in her kitchen with fellow founders Nadine Lucas and Phyllis Ashton and talked about plans.
At first, the three had one goal: to build a home for John Johnson, an elderly man who lost both legs and couldn't get into his trailer anymore. Lucas rallied the community for money and materials to build Johnson a handicapped-accessible home.
When the project faltered 18 months later, she asked Wardlaw to help finish it.
It wasn't the King George woman's first venture into real estate. When she wasn't working full time as a flight attendant, Wardlaw had been buying and selling homes since she was 22.
"I'm always thinking about what comes next," said the wife and mother of two.
What came next for the grass-roots group were affordable housing projects unrivaled in the Fredericksburg region, both in design and in number.
With state and federal grants, tax credits and loans from housing agencies, Project FAITH has built 56 units in its Angelwood complex and plans 32 more in the next phase, Angel Court.
With the six single units it added to Johnson's place, the group has provided 94 homes in King George County for low-income elderly and disabled residents.
Projects of that scope typically don't happen in rural areas, said Gary W. Parker, executive director of the Central Virginia Housing Coalition.
"Most of the time, you'll see them going to the big cities, like Hampton and Baltimore, where there's a lot of empty buildings that can be renovated," he said. "There are a few rural ones that have 15 or 20 units, but not toward the magnitude Fronce has done."
'SHE NEVER TAKES CREDIT'
Wardlaw was so determined to provide homes for people who were in the same spot as Johnson that she signed for a loan to borrow $20,000 for a down payment on land. The group bought 40 acres just off State Route 3, near the courthouse and Smoot Library.
COUNTY DOESN'T FUND PROJECTProject FAITH Director Fronce Wardlaw reminds people that not all handicapped people are in wheelchairs.
Some disabilities, such as chronic fatigue, aren't apparent. People with HIV-AIDS are staying healthier longer "and don't look like Tom Hanks did
Also, some units in the Angelwood complex house families.