Hampton Roads companies and volunteers unite to save elderly woman’s condemned home

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — As Betty Crippen grew older, she lost those closest to her.  

First, her mother passed away, followed by her aunt, close friends and even her beloved dogs.  

In her heartbreak, Crippen said, she just collapsed. So did the physical world around her. 

More than a year ago, as Crippen recalls, she fell and called Virginia Beach first responders for help.  

They found an overcrowded house in a state of extreme disrepair.  

Conditions were so dangerous, the city condemned Crippen’s home and she began living out of her car in a Walmart parking lot, rather than pay for the necessary repairs. 

De Loris Warren, who met Crippen in church more than a decade ago, watched out for her friend during that dark period.  

“I love her to death, she loves me, but we fight all of the time because we’ve got to get her in her house,” Warren said.  

In February, tired of watching Crippen suffer, she posted online asking for help. 

“I decided I needed to go to GoFundMe and look for volunteers who will go in that house and love her and get her back in that house,” Warren said.  

Crippen’s story exploded on GoFundMe and the social media site Nextdoor. 

Today, she is less than a week away from potentially moving back into her repaired home. 

Warren says she’s overwhelmed by the response. 

“We do have love in this city,” she said. “That people will take their time and go in that house […] they were here, and they never stopped. So I am very, very thankful.” 

Critical help came from Chris Wood, who works in construction and development for McLeskey & Associates. 

Wood saw the post about Crippen and felt drawn to the cause.  

“Mrs. Crippen is mom’s age, she has no family, she needed help,” he said. “No one was really helping her, I think just because no one knew about it.” 

Wood put dozens of hours into the project and called in favors from all over the city to get tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies, equipment and labor donated. 

Carter Lumber, Faith Works Coalition, Dragas Homes, Chesapeake Homes, Central Plumbing, Quality Insulation, Air Specialties, Overhead Door and Atlantic Elevator all contributed to the project, along with a crew of dedicated volunteers like Judy Irwin, who spent dozens of hours in the house. 

Crippen’s case will be back in court May 13. Wood expects by then, the house will be up to code. 

“It won’t be perfect, but it will be safe and she can be home,” he said.  

From there, Warren says she’ll make sure Betty and her home get the care they need. 

“I will be there,” she said. “I’ve always promised her that I will be there for her, no matter what.” 

Wood is still looking for carpet and someone to refinish the home’s wood floors. 

If you would like to help, contact Chris Wood via email: chris@mcleskey.com.

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