AZTEC, N.M., June 2, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Gerald Benally was a long-time renter and had always hoped that one day he would own his own home. Mr. Benally works at the Food Bank of the Economic Council Helping Others Inc. (ECHO), and saw a flyer about ECHO HOPE (Home Ownership Problems Eliminated), a first-time homebuyers program offered through ECHO's housing department. Mr. Benally thought this may be his opportunity to become a homeowner.

Mr. Benally talked with Rosalyn Fry, housing director at ECHO, to learn more about the program. Ms. Fry explained that ECHO partners with Four Corners Community Bank to facilitate Homebuyer Equity Leverage Partnership (HELP) grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas).

HELP is a first-time homebuyer program available through FHLB Dallas member institutions, such as Four Corners Community Bank, that provides grant funds to assist income-qualified, first-time homebuyers with down payment and closing costs on a newly constructed or existing home. In 2010, FHLB Dallas set aside $3 million in HELP funds to provide eligible recipients up to $5,000. The amount may be increased up to $7,000 if a member financial institution or another mortgage lender contributes at least $350 toward costs associated with providing the mortgage to the homeowner.

Mr. Benally qualified for a $5,000 HELP grant to assist with the down payment and closing costs for a newly constructed home in the Pioneer Heights subdivision in Aztec, New Mexico. 

"Gerald has worked at ECHO for 10 years," said Ms. Fry. "He has an excellent reputation and is a reliable employee. He prepared himself very well for the responsibilities of homeownership, and it was a pleasure to see him qualify for a home."

Mr. Benally closed on a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home in mid-May. He and his daughter, who is going into her senior year of high school, hope to move in by early June. Mr. Benally said he has passed the word around about ECHO and the HELP program to help others get into their own home.

"It was well worth the wait," said Mr. Benally. "I've been renting since 1990, and it took a little while for me to get my finances in order and prepare for homeownership, but it was all worth it."

In addition to the HELP grant, ECHO partnered with the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, which provided an $8,000 subsidy from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Home funds. Ms. Fry was able to secure a portion of the funds to help Mr. Benally reduce the principal on his new home. The combination of the HELP grant and the HUD funds allowed Mr. Benally to lower his monthly mortgage payment to a rate comparable to what he paid in rent.

ECHO has awarded four HELP grants so far in 2010, and has several applications pending, as well as others that Ms. Fry is preparing to submit. She said Four Corners Community Bank has been a tremendous partner for ECHO. This is the first year the two organizations have worked together to secure HELP funds, and they share the excitement of helping first-time homebuyers in their community.

"The word 'community' is part of our name, and Four Corners Community Bank is dedicated to helping organizations, like ECHO, to meet our local needs," said Leslie Schnell, compliance officer at Four Corners Community Bank. "Homeownership provides stability for a family. We are honored to be a partner in ECHO's mission, and very pleased that the FHLB Dallas HELP program has been such a good fit for the ECHO housing program." 

Four Corners Community Bank also contributes to other ECHO programs. Their partnership has proven to be a great resource to the community.

"Four Corners Community Bank stepped up to the plate to help with placing families in homes, and we are very grateful. They are doing this solely for the benefit of the community," said Ms. Fry.

Ms. Fry continued to explain that ECHO processes its homebuyer mortgages through a USDA 502 direct loan. Therefore, Four Corners Community Bank does not receive additional business by facilitating the FHLB Dallas HELP grants.

ECHO is hosting an open house on Wednesday, June 16, in the Pioneer Heights subdivision at 3372 J. F. Scott Street in Aztec. The event will take place from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. It is a statewide event that will showcase ECHO's program in San Juan County and highlight the recent homebuyers assisted by ECHO. Terry Brunner, state director for USDA New Mexico, will speak about the importance of ECHO HOPE and the rural development program. A hard hat tour of the homes will follow after Mr. Brunner's presentation.

For more information regarding the ECHO HOPE open house, please contact Rosalyn Fry, Ryan Downey or Herman Sedano at 505-325-7466. 

For more information about FHLB Dallas and its programs, contact the Corporate Communications Department at 214.441.8445.

About ECHO

The Economic Council Helping Others Inc. (ECHO) was established in 1967 in Farmington, New Mexico, as a 501(c)-3 nonprofit that administers numerous programs throughout the northern half of New Mexico. Its services include a variety of food programs ranging from USDA Commodity Food Programs to individual emergency food assistance, an emergency financial assistance program, a full-service pre-school, and the ECHO HOPE (Home Ownership Problems Eliminated) housing program, which is the only affordable housing program available in San Juan County to assist qualified recipients for low-interest USDA mortgages. ECHO also offers free first-time homebuyer and financial literacy classes and assists with setting up Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) for qualified recipients. For more information about ECHO and its programs, please contact Rosalyn Fry, Ryan Downey or Herman Sedano at 505-325-7466 or visit echoinc.org.

About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) is one of 12 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $58.7 billion as of March 31, 2010, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to more than 900 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. For more information, visit the FHLB Dallas web site at fhlb.com.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=3013

Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
Corporate Communications
(214) 441-8445
www.fhlb.com