Nonprofit building mom, daughter a home to call their own

KENNEWICK -- Jessica Hodges of Kennewick dreamed of owning her own home someday -- maybe in another decade or so.

But thanks to First Story's affordable housing program, her dream will come true this summer.

Each week, Hodges, 22, drives by the home being built for her and her 4-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

So far, they have seen the walls and roof go up.

The Bend, Ore., nonprofit builds homes and finds low-income families to own them. It gives families a 30-year, no-interest loan and doesn't require a down payment.

The Hodges' new Kennewick home will be the fifth First Story has built in the Tri-Cities and the first in Kennewick, said Shon Rae, the nonprofit's executive director. Local businesses donated more than $55,000 for the project.

The $166,000 home will end up costing Hodges about $650 to $700 per month, including taxes and homeowner association dues, Rae said. The 1,234-square-foot home will look just like others in the Creekstone community.

Hayden Homes, the company that started First Story in 1996, is building the three-bedroom home.

Hodges said her goal is to be moved in before her daughter's fifth birthday on Sept. 3.

Elizabeth is excited to have her own yard to play in, she said. It will mean she can play outside more often, since they live in an apartment now.

The Kennewick High School graduate said she hopes to attend college to get a degree in social work.

She already is working in the field as a youth partner with 3 Rivers Wraparound at Lutheran Community Services Northwest in Kennewick. Hodges said she helps youth with mental health and behavioral challenges and their families to determine what their needs are and how best to meet them.

It's a program Hodges said helped her and her family. Hodges has five younger siblings who have had some mental health or behavioral challenges. Their family went through the program for two years, graduating when Hodges was 18.

Part of the reason Hodges was chosen was because of how she is setting an example for her siblings, Rae said.

Hodges said her parents weren't very successful at parenting, so she took on that role for her brothers and sisters at a young age. Now, she is working hard to show them that it's possible to break the cycle.

Hodges' home is one of seven First Story hopes to finish this year, Rae said. That will add to the 33 the nonprofit already has finished.

The program is designed to help people such as Hodges who have worked hard, but wouldn't be able to purchase their own home without assistance, Rae said.

"We just feel like everybody should have the opportunity to own a home if they are ready and willing," she said.

Hodges said the program has been a "godsend." She said it still feels slightly unreal and has ever since she found out she qualified May 27.