AZTEC, N.M., June 14, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- For Sommar Martinez, the opportunity of homeownership came at just the right time. Ms. Martinez rented a mobile home from her parents for several years, but hoped that one day she could afford her own home for her and two sons, ages 6 and 15.

Ms. Martinez said her step-father saw an advertisement in the local newspaper for a first-time homebuyers program offered by the Economic Council Helping Others Inc. (ECHO). The program, ECHO HOPE (Home Ownership Problems Eliminated), combines multiple funding sources to help residents in San Juan County achieve homeownership. 

Ms. Martinez was put in contact with Rosalyn Fry, housing director at ECHO. Ms. Fry explained that in 2010, ECHO HOPE formed a new partnership with Four Corners Community Bank to obtain Home Equity Leverage Partnership (HELP) grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas.

HELP, a first-time homebuyers program available only through FHLB Dallas member institutions, such as Four Corners Community Bank, 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 increase up to $7,000 if a member financial institution, or another mortgage lender, contributes at least $350 towards costs associated with providing the mortgage to the homeowner.

Ms. Fry worked with Leslie Schnell, compliance officer at Four Corners Community Bank, to qualify Ms. Martinez for a $5,000 HELP grant. 

"Four Corners Community Bank has been a tremendous partner for us," said Ms. Fry. "We are very fortunate that this partnership has allowed ECHO HOPE to promote the HELP program. Several San Juan County families have already benefited from the grants, and there are many more pending applications."

In addition to the HELP grant, Ms. Martinez also qualified for an Individual Development Account (IDA), and an $8,000 subsidy from the PAYMENT SAVER Program through the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority. With assistance from all three funding sources, Ms. Martinez was able to build a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home in a quiet neighborhood in Aztec, New Mexico.

"The entire process was a blessing," said Ms. Martinez. "I am so thankful for all of the assistance I received. I wouldn't be in my home today without the help from ECHO and Four Corners Community Bank."

Ms. Martinez said she began the homebuyer process in May 2009, and since then has kept very busy. She went back to school to earn a license in counseling, saved money and prepared her finances for homeownership, and attended first-time homebuyer and financial literacy classes.

Ms. Martinez said construction began on her home in the fall of 2009, and she was able to pick the neighborhood and lot site, as well as the paint, colors, flooring, and cabinets. She and her two sons moved in February 2010. The financial assistance from the HELP grant, IDA, and PAYMENT SAVER subsidy helped Ms. Martinez pay the down payment and closing costs, and reduced the principal owed on her home so that she could pay a more affordable monthly mortgage.

"Owning a home provides a foundation for a family," said Ms. Schnell with Four Corners Community Bank. "We are so happy that the HELP program has been such a great fit for ECHO, and that it has been successfully implemented to meet the needs of those in our community."

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 HOPE's program in San Juan County and highlight the recent first-time homebuyers assisted by ECHO. Terry Brunner, state director for USDA New Mexico, will speak about the importance of ECHO 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 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