"Home" evokes many
Innumerable phrases have been written
about that special place — usually paired with such terms as "warm," "sweet,"
"loving" and "comfortable."
And, like Dorothy in "The
Wizard of Oz," Dannetta Smith of
knows firsthand that "There's no
place like home."
An innovative program, Employer Assisted
, helped Smith purchase a home, with financial help provided by
her employer —
Smith, a patient care coordinator at
facility, has been
with the hospital for 12 years.
The EAH program, sponsored and endorsed by the
Metropolitan Planning Council
, offers qualified employees
"forgivable" loans to purchase a home.
Smith received a $5,000 loan from the
hospital toward the purchase of her home.
"I found out about the program
through communications at work," Smith said. "About every three months, seminars
are offered at the hospital about the program."
Smith said the search for a home and
the process was, initially, "very stressful."
Peter Gunn, executive director of the
Regional Redevelopment Corp., helped Smith find the right home and the best
The first home Smith was looking to
purchase didn't work out.
"He (Gunn) had to come out to the
house and check over contracts and everything," she said. "He said the deal
Gunn said Smith was nearly roped into
a "predatory loan," that had fees charged to the buyer and seller at higher than
"The home also had problems," Gunn
"It would need a lot of maintenance
and had cracked wooden siding, broken gutters, cracked concrete and other
Homes needing that much work often
mean foreclosure for such buyers, he said.
"Usually the buyer closes the deal,
has to make any number of needed repairs and then falls short on the
Overseeing such details is part of
the EAH program, which worked in Smith's favor.
Gunn was determined to keep Smith
away from that scenario and, together, they found a more suitable
"We found Dannetta a different home
that didn't need a lot of work and maintenance," he
Gunn said the program, which
stipulates owners stay in the home for five years, also provides clients with
"About 75 percent of the clients have
some type of credit repairs that must be made. Lenders work with them to clean
up credit problems," Gunn said, noting that not all applicants are successful at
purchasing a home.
"They get help on homeownership
issues, credit counseling and dealing with lenders and (real estate
"In Dannetta's case, we made some
credit repairs and secured a loan that was more manageable for
Through another program, Gunn was
also able to find an additional $5,000 to use as a down payment. That program
was also designed for first-time homebuyers with income ranges, he
Smith is grateful for the help
offered by Gunn and Chicago-based Park National Bank, which also assisted her
through the homebuying process.
"I would recommend this program to
any single parent," she said. "It's a wonderful program, but (participants) must
have patience and be willing to do the leg work."
Smith said the help from Gunn and
Milton Ware at Park National Bank helped her
The entire process took about one
year, "from start to moving day," she said.
Smith said she's helping some friends
at work who are interested in the program.
"Someone comes up to me at least once
a day asking about the program," she said.
Smith added that she is thrilled to
be in her own home and away from renting.
"We moved (to different apartments)
six times in five years," she said.
As a single mother, Smith's rent
payments were augmented through Section 8, a government program that provides
low-income families with payments for rental
"The more money you make, the more
the rent is (under that program)," she said.
When her rent rose to $950 per month
for a small apartment, Smith "knew it was time to look into the EAH
"My credit wasn't so great, but (Park
National) walked me through the process and helped me consolidate loans," she
said. "I cleaned up my credit problems."
When Smith and her daughters, ages 22
and 15, finally moved into their home in
, the relief was
She said the home is ideal for her
family with three bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, living room, dining room and
"There's a two-car garage, basketball
court and a deck — and it's maintenance free.
"I cried for 10 days," she said. "I
was relieved of the pressure and, although the struggle is there, I'm working
towards something that's mine."