Breaking New Ground: Village at Winding Road – Marsha Lawson

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs believes we all share a common need for shelter. That's why we pride ourselves on laying the foundation for safe and affordable housing. The Housing Tax Credit program makes that goal manifest by offering tax incentives to properties that devote all or part of their units to low-to-moderate income residents. Countless residents, owners, and developers across the state are Breaking New Ground, reinventing themselves in their homes, and seizing the opportunity to begin the next chapter of their lives in safety and comfort in developments such as Village at Winding Road

In 2017, DCA allocated tax credits for The Village at Winding Road (Phase II) in St. Marys. This property boats senior-specific features such as patios, one-story villas, handrails, and in-unit washers and dryers. A business center, community room, and gym are also available for use.

She was born a Georgia peach, but Marsha Lawson spent decades as a Hollywood starlet. She moved to LA in her mid-20s and lived most of her life there, working as a professional actress. However, her family brought her back to her home state. Lawson is from Atlanta and grew up in Decatur. Her return landed her on the Georgia coast to be with family.

“I was taking care of my mother. She’s 91,” Lawson explained. “I had been a caregiver for five years, and we lived in a small town up the coast from here in Brunswick, St. Simons Island.”

The time came to put her mother in an assisted living community, and Lawson chose St. Marys as the location. She had sold her condo and was renting one from a friend, so she was also in need of housing in the area.

She had fallen in love with the town but needed a home that she could afford on her fixed income. Cleanliness, attractiveness and upkeep of the property, as well as proximity to her mother, were important factors in her search. Lawson searched – and prayed – for six months and discovered Winding Road online.

“I fell in love with [it]. It was just absolutely gorgeous, and I met the property manager and met with a couple of people and decided within two days that I was going to move here,” she said. “My mother is two and a half miles down the road [which] made it easier for me to go see her every few days.”

Her new home is in Phase II of the property and she has a one-story walk-in. She had a three-bedroom, 2-bathroom home in California, and had been looking for a smaller space. Lawson said, “We get older and life changes and our needs become less. [I was] just trying to minimalize my life and live comfortably and be able to take care of myself.”

She underwent knee surgery four months ahead of moving into Winding Road, and her recuperative walking plan was underway. Therefore, the walking trail and safe environment have been complementary elements to her recovery.

“I will get up at 6:30 or 7 according to the light,” she said of her 20- to 30-minute walks. “I’ve felt extremely safe here. I found out that we have a little gym in this beautiful community center.”

The external community has also been a blessing for her. She has found opportunities to assist her neighbors by driving them around for errands since grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers are close by. She also loves being near the waterfront which is only a few miles from Winding Road.

“It’s absolutely stunning. It’s a national historical seashore,” she said, adding that a ferry is available to take people to Cumberland Island. “People come from all over the country to visit. It’s a little small-town uptown community with groovy restaurants, art galleries, cozy stores, boutiques, furniture stores, gift shops, great bookshops. But you have to get out and investigate. And I’m one of those!”

Lawson’s self-proclaimed natural instinct to research led her to find assistance for her mother and a home for herself, leading her down all the right paths for this new phase of life as a senior citizen. After finding what she was looking for in Georgia, she began to search in other states and even referred a similar housing development to a friend in Texas.

“I think the whole country needs to have more of these communities,” she said, advocating for housing tax credit programs. “I see it is income-based and appealing to a senior such as myself, who is over 62. It’s appealing to someone who lives on a fixed income.”

She said her experience has been smooth, and she intends to stay with the hope that safe, affordable housing options for seniors continues to grow. It was a welcome sight once this “hometown girl” returned to Georgia.

“There’s a lot of this type of housing in California. You just started seeing it here,” Lawson said. “So, I am really grateful for it.”