Even before the ribbon had been cut for the grand opening of the new Homeownership Center in Hannibal, a client had already visited that morning to take part in services offered at the new location.

Even before the ribbon had been cut for the grand opening of the new Homeownership Center in Hannibal, a client had already visited that morning to take part in services offered at the new location.

Carla Potts, NorthEast Community Action Corporation (NECAC) Deputy Director for Housing Development Programs, assisted a client with foreclosure counseling before the grand opening celebration, noting that NECAC’s varied homeownership and financial programs and assistance will now be available under one roof thanks to receiving the needed space at the Marion County NECAC and Family Planning office and working closely with NeighborWorks America.

Potts said efforts to establish a “one-stop shop” for homeownership services had been in the works since 2004. During the Thursday, April 6 grand opening for the new facility, representatives from several area organizations joined with dignitaries at the local, county, state and federal levels to celebrate a new facility that will offer assistance, education and programs for every step of the homeownership experience.

As she prepared to introduce and thank the people who helped make the Homeownership Center a reality, Potts told the crowd that photographs were on display inside to reflect the faces behind the work NECAC performs every day.

“This is about the people we serve and the people who become homeowners,” she said.

Potts said Tri-State Housing Committee members agreed that the center would be vital to meeting a growing need for homeownership education and assistance in surrounding communities.

“A lot of times, we want to be a homeowner — that’s the American Dream — but we don’t know how to start, or we think our credit’s not good or we just don’t know,” she said. “This is a place to come just to talk to someone and see what they need to get on the path toward homeownership.”

NECAC President and CEO Don Patrick told the story about a Hannibal couple who achieved their dream of homeownership two years ago through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Section 502 Direct home loan. He said NECAC took care of the loan packaging and oversight services related to the home purchase, noting homeownership made them “feel much more secure knowing they had a place to truly call ‘home.’”

Patrick said the new Homeownership Center is the first of its kind in Northeast Missouri, and will allow people to access a plethora of services including pre-purchase and post-purchase counseling, the Tiny Homes Program, the Aspire Partnership Prison Homes Program, home weatherization and home rehabilitation. He thanked NeighborWorks America, which has designated NECAC as a chartered member for the past 13 years, NECAC staff members and all of the organizations and people who worked together toward the same goal. John Santner, NeighborWorks America Midwest Region Vice President, shared the impact the Homeownership Centers have achieved.

The organizations helped more than 360,000 families with affordable housing needs and assisted 21,000 people in achieving their dreams of homeownership, he said. The centers strive to make the process simple and help homeowners with maintenance and other keys to long-term ownership of their home.

Dave Dexheimer said the new Homeownership Center would help clients navigate the complicated process of first-time homeownership. Often, people have difficulty securing transportation as they make their way through the various steps toward buying a home.

“Having it all in one location really makes a difference,” he said. Patrick agreed that the new facility would make a positive impact for people throughout the 12-county area NECAC serves.

“So, our promise as we open this Homeownership Center is to offer more people a foundation on which to build their dreams, and a framework they can use to construct better lives,” he said.

After all, that is the official motto of NECAC and our National Community Action Association — ‘helping people, changing lives.’”

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com