Shinea Weedon never thought she would be a homeowner.
The Hood College employee and Frederick resident had been renting in North Pointe when she visited United Way for free tax preparation services. While she was there, someone pointed her toward the Prosperity Fair, which showcased programs such as the Pathway to Homeownership.
Six years later, she and her two kids moved into her first home. Weedon is the 25th graduate of the Pathway to Homeownership program.
"I just thought it was a dream," Weedon said. "I would think maybe one day, if I ever win the lottery, I can buy a house ... but I never actually really thought I would be a homeowner."
The Pathway to Homeownership program helps eligible home buyers open a savings account. For every dollar the participant puts into savings, United Way matches $4 with the help of community partners.
To be eligible, applicants must meet the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) threshold, meaning they have an income above the poverty line but are unable to afford the basic cost of living.
After years of hard work, Weedon had saved enough for a down payment on a townhouse. She worked with David Campbell at Troyce Gatewood and Partners to help her with the home search and closed Feb. 23.
"Now that it's over, I thought it was gonna be a lot harder than it was," Weedon said. "... I think the hardest part was just waiting and the time it took."
United Way's Prosperity Center has a variety of other services as well, including credit counseling provided by the Interfaith Housing Alliance. Lacy Ames, program development and outreach manager at IHA, said the program is available to anybody who is seeking help reaching a financial goal.
"From my end, it's really rewarding to see the results because I meet them in such a vulnerable, interesting state, because talking about finances is hard," Ames said. "And then to see them learn and execute all the goals and plans they made and actually succeed in their financial goals, it's a heartwarming thing."
United Way recently launched another savings program to help residents save for a car at Second Chances Garage. Weedon's son, Shane, was the first graduate of the program.
Now that she's a homeowner, Weedon will help mentor people currently going through the homeownership program. She said many people have already reached out to her to find out how she did it.
"A lot of people were thinking, 'It's not going to work,' or 'That's too easy for it to be true,' and no one really believed it," Weedon said. "But then once they've seen that I've got my house, now everyone's asking me, 'How can I do it?'"
Weedon stressed the importance of the community partners, including the Housing Authority, which helped answer questions and teach her about various parts of the process.
Malcolm Furgol, director of community impact and grants at United Way, was excited to see Weedon — a former neighbor of his — purchase her home.
"She did all the hard work. We're her support team and provide critical information and show her how to do things," he said. "But if she didn't follow through, then this wouldn't have happened."