Home improvements, made possible through the DREAM initiative, changes a Waynesville resident's life

Karen Foster had hit a low point in 2012 — she had broken her leg, endured a very painful knee surgery and was very ill. She felt immobile and cooped up in her 60-year-old home off Elm Street, and didn't know how much longer she could live like this.

But things started to change for Karen when she visited City Hall one day with simple intentions of paying her utility bill. Sandy Willis, executive assistant to the city administrator, approached Foster and suggested for her to apply for a grant through the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) initiative.

Last year, the City of Waynesville received money as a part of the DREAM initiative to improve the homes of 10 area residents who could receive up to $20,000 in improvements each.

The City of Waynesville has been a designated DREAM city since 2010. As a DREAM city, Waynesville has been given technical and financial assistance to revitalize the downtown area and also improve the city as a whole.

Residents applying for the grants had to live within Waynesville city limits, fall within the income guidelines, and occupy their homes.

“I told her I never win anything,” Foster said. “But then she explained to me that you have to qualify and that I would have a good chance.”

And two days after applying, Foster received a phone call informing her that she qualified for the grant money.

Over the next few months, Foster's 60-year-old house that she had lived in since 1988 received a major facelift with brand new windows, doors, two porches, and a brand new bathroom.

“I could hardly even get in my bathroom before all this,” she said. “I couldn't even go up and down my stairs. I was really just home-bound before and now I'm not.”

Her house was also rewired entirely with a new heating and cooling system as a part of the grant.

While touring Foster's home after improvements were complete, Mayor Luge Hardman and State Representative Steve Lynch discussed the importance of the DREAM initiative and how great it is to see visible change because of it.

“We have been very thrilled with what's happened with the DREAM initiative and this is just a perfect example of that,” she said. ”I want to thank the City Staff, specifically Sandy Willis and Carol Welch, as we worked on the DREAM application and then on the paperwork for our ten homes.”

Lynch thanked Hardman and others as well for working so hard for this “dream” to become a reality.

“This is why you do these kind of things,” he said. “Today, with Karen Foster and the other nine families are the direct result of that — where you really get to effect a life and really make a life better. As a part of government, this is the best part. “

Foster said that she “just feels really blessed” for being selected.

“ I just wish I could do more for the community because I've gotten so much help,” she said. “Everybody was just wonderful to me, there is just so many people to thank.”