By Stefanie Jackson – The New Road community of Exmore hosted a ribbon-cutting July 15 for six new houses that make up the first phase of what the New Road Community Development Group calls its Legacy Project to honor the late Ruth Wise and others who formed the organization 30 years ago.
Ava Gabrielle-Wise, daughter of Ruth Wise and executive director of the New Road group, introduced its retired president, Burley Rogers, as one of the last living “members of the original team of folks who walked this neighborhood with just a dream. The dream that we could transform our very well-loved community … loved for generations but in need – in need of some attention,” she said.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to stand here today,” Rogers said. “We went through a lot of stuff, but we made it,” he said of the decades-long journey that brought New Road to its present accomplishments.
Gabrielle-Wise thanked friends and partners who helped New Road realize its dream: the town of Exmore, represented at the ribbon-cutting by Town Manager Robert Duer and Director of Zoning and Utilities Taylor Dukes; the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, represented by area specialist Bobbie Jo Wert; the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, represented by Acquire, Renovate, Sell program manager Cheri Miles; and Virginia Housing, represented by Director of Strategic Housing Chris Thompson.
Gabrielle-Wise acknowledged the work of Northampton County officials, the McAuley Institute that provided the funding to purchase the New Road community about 30 years ago, and the members of the community.
Gabrielle-Wise also thanked the contracting firm RMT Construction, of Richmond, for its “unbelievable support.”
Not only did the firm make its services available to New Road during the shortage of materials and workers that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has been “as honest and as reputable and as forthright as you can expect any company to be.
“They have been a friend to this community and this project,” Gabrielle-Wise said of the firm, which she believes will be a long-term partner for New Road.
Tammy Neale, chief of programs for Virginia Housing, said, “We certainly serve the entire commonwealth in ensuring access to quality, affordable housing, but I would say that we have a special heart for the work that is happening here in Exmore, the work with Ava that she has done to carry on the legacy of her mother and to support the community.”
Cheri Miles said she never met Ruth Wise, “but when you say the name … you hear, ‘tenacious, stubborn, but boy, oh, boy, can she get a project done.’
“And I will say you are very much like your mother,” she told Gabrielle-Wise.
Miles said of Wise’s daughter, “She had an idea, she had a project. I had a program that fit with it, sort of, and we kind of put a round peg in a square hole, but we helped get it started, and I am just absolutely thrilled.”
Betsy Mapp, chair of the Northampton board of supervisors and representative of District 5, to which Exmore and the New Road community belong, said, “We’re delighted to see this project so far along and it’s just a real plus for Northampton County that this has come to pass.”
The ribbon-cutting was followed by tours of two of the six new homes.
The first home, where the ribbon-cutting took place, is a two-bedroom house with two bathrooms, one connecting to the main bedroom, and an open-concept living room and eat-in kitchen area.
The second house is a “tiny home” of nearly 500 square feet that opens into a living and dining area and features a compact galley kitchen, one bathroom with a stand-up shower, and one bedroom.
All the new homes were designed to be economical without lacking curb appeal and include features such as brick foundations, vinyl siding, and porches – the two-bedroom home has both a front and back porch.
The next day, Saturday, July 16, the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the New Road Community Development Group continued with a Community Day celebration, awarding of scholarships, and home tours that were open to the public.