GREENWOOD, MS - This is a news release from Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
Dorothy Russell, 61, knows you can go home again. She grew up in a house on McNeill Street in Baptist Town and brought her firstborn home to that address. Eventually, economic conditions worsened in her east Greenwood community, and the home was torn down. Ms. Russell, who had worked part-time, moved into a rental home 28 years ago, never imagining that one day she would return to that lot in Baptist Town.
It was at church where Ms. Russell first heard about Baptist Town Cottages — new construction in her old neighborhood. "Everyone was calling me to see if I wanted one of those houses," she said.
The Baptist Town Cottages are part of a revitalized neighborhood with affordable homes for families earning less than 50 percent of the area median income. Emily Roush Elliott, a Rose Architectural Fellow and the project's manager, met with Ms. Russell, assisting her with the mortgage application. However, because of limited income, Ms. Russell didn't have funds for a down payment and closing costs.
Ms. Roush Elliot told her about a grant through the Homebuyer Equity Leverage Partnership (HELP) program. HELP is offered by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) through its member financial institutions, in this case, Planters Bank & Trust Company, to provide grants to assist income-qualified, first-time homebuyers with down payments and/or closing costs on newly constructed or existing homes.
Ms. Russell applied for and was approved to purchase a cottage with the help of a $4,000 HELP grant for her down payment from Planters Bank & Trust Company. "Later in the process," Ms. Roush Elliott said, "Ms. Russell discovered that one of the cottages would be located at the same address as her childhood home, so she specifically requested that cottage."
Eric Miller, first vice president at Planters Bank & Trust Company, said HELP grants are tremendously helpful for Greenwood and communities like it. "The HELP grants assist deserving families and individuals, like Ms. Russell, with down payments toward their first homes," said Mr. Miller. "We are so pleased to be able to help in this way."
Seeing Ms. Russell once again living on the land where she grew up brings Ms. Roush Elliott a sense of accomplishment. "But without the HELP grants, homeownership would not be attainable for some of the residents of Baptist Town Cottages," she said.
The Rose Architectural Fellowship from Enterprise Community Partners, according to the Enterprise website, pairs "early-career architects," like Ms. Roush Elliott, with local community development organizations for three-year fellowships, during which they facilitate "an inclusive approach to development that brings all stakeholders together to create green, sustainable, affordable communities." Ms. Roush Elliott is hosted by the Greenwood-Leflore Economic Development Foundation and Mississippi State University's Carl Small Town Center during her three-year tenure on the redevelopment of the Baptist Town community.
Ms. Russell is grateful for the help she received from everyone. "I was away from this spot for nearly 30 years," she said. "I always wanted to buy a house, but I didn't expect it to be exactly where I grew up. I'm so proud of my house, and I sure appreciate everything that everyone did."
In 2015, FHLB Dallas has made $1 million available for the HELP program on a first-come, first-served basis, just as it did in 2014. To date in 2015, Planters Bank & Trust Company has awarded $40,000 in HELP grants to assist income-qualified, first-time homebuyers.
"HELP is a program dedicated to strengthening communities, one homebuyer at a time," said Greg Hettrick, vice president and director of Community Investment at FHLB Dallas. "Our member institutions, like Planters Bank & Trust Company, help facilitate this process, and we are pleased to be able to support this worthwhile cause through our membership."