“I Still Can’t Believe It”
January 8, 2019
“I still can’t believe it.”
Those were some of Karen Marcel’s first words when Claudia Flores and I sat down to talk with her about her new home.
Karen moved into the house in mid-June. Since then, it’s evident that she has been busy making it her own. As she greeted us and led us into her kitchen, her friendly cats meowed hello. Karen busied herself preparing fresh coffee and slicing homemade banana bread to serve her guests.
Karen’s dad is from Strawberry Hill. Her great-grandmother moved to the Kansas City area from Croatia. Her family were farmers, until they were displaced by the construction of I-70. Karen was forced to move almost constantly as a child and as an adult, so establishing a permanent home is a big deal for her.
At the beginning of her career, Karen attended KCK Community College and KU. Just a year or two after beginning her first job as a social worker at an Native American reservation, Karen was diagnosed with blood cancer. She had to move closer to home for treatment and support.
Karen later returned to school for a master’s degree in the healthcare field. But while interning at a senior center, she was diagnosed with fungal meningitis. Soon after, she found out that her cancer had returned.
It’s easy to tell from talking with Karen that she’s been through a lot. While she acknowledges her trials, she also says she has learned to keep moving despite obstacles, “like an Energizer bunny.”
Apartment living was never ideal for Karen. She wanted a financial future not jeapordized by the yearly rent hikes she had come to expect. On top of that, she had encountered issues with mold that affected her health in at least one rental unit. But Karen didn’t believe she would ever be able to afford a home of her own.
When she received an email from CHWC “out of the blue,” Karen didn’t think much it. Nevertheless, she filled out part of the form for general intake on CHWC’s website. The rest was left incomplete. Later, Karen received a call from someone at CHWC suggesting she finish the form. “I told him I didn’t think I could do this right now,” Karen said. After all, she had many other financial concerns. Moving into a permanent home was not at the top of her priority list.
But CHWC wanted to help. With their encouragement, she submitted the complete form. After browsing the selection of available new constructions, she found a new home on CHWC’s website. That’s when she decided to pursue the opportunity and called Claudia, CHWC’s Home Sales Manager.
Claudia was adamant after talking to Karen on the phone that Karen had the financial readiness to buy the house. In fact, she was so confident that Karen was the right person for the property that she cancelled the open house scheduled for it later that week. “I’ve never really had another case like this,” Claudia recalls. In an unprecedentedly smooth transition, Karen quickly obtained a $20,000 HOME funding grant and $25,000 AHP grant. She closed on the property on June 15, 2018.
Karen is grateful to have her own space to care for and design. She has repainted some of the rooms in fresh colors. Her taste is evident through the eclectic home decor. She loves the big kitchen and the balcony that allows her to sit outside when the weather is nice.
Moving into a new home has revitalized Karen, providing her with a sense of new beginning. To her, Karen says, Wyandotte County feels more like home than anywhere else. Here, she is able to feel her grandmother’s presence, which she believes contributed to the success of her homeownership journey.
Karen expressed a deep gratitude for everything CHWC has done to enable her to buy the house. But Claudia reminded her that the process of buying a home is successful mostly because of the perseverance of the prospective homeowners. “You worked very hard for this,” Claudia tells her. “Yes, we [CHWC] did help you achieve your goal, but you had to work for all of that.”
Every new homeowner experiences a mixture of gratitude for those who’ve helped them along the way and pride in the work they’ve put in. CHWC loves being a part of that process and those celebratory moments. If you think you’re ready to take the first step toward homeownership, don’t hesitate to reach out to CHWC for advice.