Between the cameras, loud voices and clapping crowd, 4-year-old Jeremiah Smith hesitated to join his parents on the front steps of their new house.
But minutes later, he hovered above the kitchen countertop, safely in his father's grasp, playing with the sink's spray arm. Jeremiah was home, and he was thrilled.
The Smith family on Friday began moving into their new house on West Ninth Place in Kennewick -- a house built by Hayden Homes and made possible by First Story, a nonprofit dedicated to creating new homeowners.
Kenny Smith, 28, also saw a third agent at work. "This was just a complete blessing from God," he said. "It came out of nowhere."
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The Smiths' journey to home ownership began more than a year ago. After living in a Kennewick apartment for about three years, Kenny and Jolene Smith, 28, moved into a house in Burbank in July 2013. A family member bought the house and the Smiths cared for it.
A few months later, the couple's second child, Kaylene, was born. The family started to outgrow the Burbank digs, but Kenny, a Columbia Middle School writing and science teacher, wasn't sure his income would allow them to buy a new house. Kenny didn't know what to do.
And then his real estate agent made a suggestion.
"He said, 'Your best bet might be to talk to these guys at First Story'," Kenny said.
The vetting process began in late 2013 with an application to determine the couple's financial security. A sit-down with First Story's board of directors followed. The couple learned they'd been awarded a house in March.
Construction on the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home began in June. The Smiths received a 30-year, no-interest loan to buy the $142,000 house.
If the couple decides to sell the home before the loan is repaid, First Story has the first option to buy the home back or receive 50 percent of the home's increased value.
"It's a really great deal," Kenny said.
Hayden Homes constructed the house along with a platoon of contractors, including Triple S Excavating, 3 M's Construction, V&A Construction, Total Energy Management, Huesitos Landscaping, Perfection Glass, Budget Blinds, Parr Lumber, Cost Less Carpet and Volume Lighting through Platt Electric Supply.
The Smiths' home marked the 50th house built by First Story, which Hayden Homes established 15 years ago.
It's the seventh home built in the Tri-Cities. First Story operates in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.
The nonprofit aims to annually build a home in the Tri-Cities.
"In the Tri-Cities, there's a lot of need," said Claire Duncan, First Story's executive director. "We get applications all year."
First Story's generosity might be lost on Jeremiah, but not the fruits of the nonprofit's labor. The Calvary Christian School preschooler already is looking forward to making the house a home.
"He told me he wants to paint his room," Jolene said, smiling. "He wants to paint the walls."
Anyone interested in learning more about First Story can call the nonprofit's Bend, Ore., office at 541-728-0830.
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; email@example.com