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HOPE, Sweet HOPE for a Home Sweet Home

When Montrell and Kawanda discovered Operation HOPE, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. This couple, residing in Southeast Memphis, with dreams of purchasing a home large enough for their three children to romp and play, had been sorely discouraged only days before when they visited a financial institution to inquire about a mortgage loan. They were given no explanation for why they had faced their first turndown. “When he asked about my credit, I told the loan officer my income and what I thought my credit score might be, and in response, he just said ‘no,’” Kawanda said. “He didn’t even look up anything, he just shot us down and dismissed us. We didn’t look the right part, I guess. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel the way that young man made us feel.”  

The next evening, however, while watching a football game, the couple saw a TV commercial advertising Trustmark mortgage services. Montrell was skeptical, but Kawanda convinced him they should try again. Trustmark referred the couple to Operation HOPE, and that’s when they met their future Financial Wellbeing Coach, Regina Osei from HOPE Inside Trustmark Memphis.

Regina and the couple discussed their goals and the financial obstacles blocking their way, then Regina helped them work out a step-by-step plan to reach their goal of homeownership. Before long, the trio had built a relationship that went beyond bank balances and credit scores.

“We built a personal relationship with Regina. She was like a mother figure who wanted the best for us,” Kawanda said. “She wanted us to have that home.”

After just five months, Kawanda had raised her credit score by 24 points and Montrell had raised his score by an impressive 40 points. With their new, positive financial habits in place, they began the process of qualifying for a mortgage loan. Today, they have been pre-approved for more than $360,000, and are officially in the market for a home of their own.

“When I imagine living in my own home, I picture myself opening the blinds on a Saturday morning and letting the sun come in,” Kawanda said. “I see a big yard for our three kids and a dog, with a swing set for my four-year-old, and I see having my own closet.” She added, “It means the world to me to know that someone cared, that there were good people who wanted us to have this opportunity.” “I tell everyone I know that Trustmark and Operation HOPE employ good people that care.”

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