Without the EARN program, life for me and my family would not be what it is today! I came from a non-traditional family, I never met my father and my mother passed away when I was six or seven. I was raised by my mother’s only sister with her family of eight. We did not lack for essentials but there were no extras. My aunt and her husband worked 2 jobs each to take care of us, but we lacked economic security. I did well enough in school to get a scholarship to college but by that time, some of the habits I had picked up in my adolescent years got the best of me. I was unable to keep up my grades so I dropped out and joined the service. In this environment my habits only got worse. Later I was discharged and I soon found myself drifting from job to job and in and out of homelessness. As I got older my life changed. During one of the better periods I met my wife and we married. Having the responsibility of raising a family had become a reality. In 2005 I found the EARN program while I was looking for VA loans programs. When we learned we were both eligible to join the program we were really excited (it’s hard not to get motivated when someone is willing to give you money 2 for 1, it’s also a little hard to believe :-) We took classes in Money management, Credit Repair and Homeownership in order to qualify. We saved the maximum amount allowable in the shortest period of time. Before EARN, it would get real depressing talking with a real estate agent or a mortgage lender, they would ask “how much do you have for a down payment, how much you have for closing costs” and then they say “Maybe you can get some money from your family". We couldn’t have done it without EARN. Before joining EARN, we had no savings to speak of, we were getting by, but the dream of homeownership was a distant possibility. When we first joined I was the lone wage earner in a family of 4, today we have a beautiful new home, so you see dreams do come true. I am truly at a loss for words to describe what it feels like to finally be a homeowner. The best way to describe it would be a warm, fuzzy feeling that comes over me whenever I think about it or talk about it. When I walk up to the door, put the key in and walk inside, I feel a sense of relief. I no longer have to worry about landlord issues or rent increases. I live in my own home. My family is happy, my wife is ecstatic. My experience with EARN and its staff has been unbelievable. They have given me hope and the courage to set out to accomplish other goals. I have a list of them. In fact, I see this as the perfect opportunity. Now that I have completed one of my life’s biggest dreams, it’s on to the next one. If I put forth the same hard work, sacrifice and determination that I did in achieving the goal of homeownership for my family, there’s no way I won’t succeed. (That frame of mind I actually re-learned by taking part in the EARN program.) The EARN staff is always positive, supportive and very helpful, they’re like family. I can't imagine what my life would be like today without the EARN program. Today I am proud to call myself an EARN alumni and to participate in the Alumni Leadership Council. Although initially I had my doubts and thought this program was too good to be true, what I've found out is that some of my past experiences had made doubtful and I had somehow lost my belief in good people. Because of Ben Mangan, the EARN program and its staff, I have regained that. Now that I have a chance to give my family some economic stability, (an opportunity that not too long ago seemed like it wasn’t going to be possible) I also want to see that opportunity passed on to others. I didn’t have that chance until the EARN program gave it to me!