Archive for the ‘Awareness Home Funding’ Category

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 5

June 7, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

My Loan Officer now took my file (all 7,000 pages at this point) and submitted it to the underwriter for them to review and verify.  I was feeling a little more confident at this point that the loan would go through smoothly.  However, the first part of this process is not just for the underwriter to approve the loan, but to also to gather more information (called conditions) if needed to support their decision.  It’s kind of like the kid on the playground who says, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” when you say you can do a handstand or something else you can no longer do at age 39.  (There’s a whole other story there.  Don’t ask.)

I am happy to report; my loan was approved by the underwriter with minimal conditions.  Those were submitted and my Loan Officer and Title Agent were soon given the all clear sign to get the final documents ready for the closing.  If you think the papers you signed for your application were excessive, you haven’t seen anything yet.  Some of the documents are the same ones you signed for the application.  You get the privilege of signing those again.  Others are new forms that detail your loan and how you will repay it.  Then there are others that give you important information about the whole transaction, and then even more that verify you were given that information.  As you may have guessed, there were a couple politicians and lawyers involved in determining the process for buying (or even refinancing) a home.  I highly suggest a big breakfast before and a hand massage after the closing.

The day of my closing seemed to never come.  The dream of owning my own home was finally here after almost 3 years of planning and hard work.  The moment the keys to the front door were placed into my hand was, as they say, priceless.  Owning a home is not just the purchase of piece of property.  A home is where you raise a family, share memories, retreat from the world.  It is an investment unlike any other.  Stocks and bonds can never hold the emotional ties that a house does.  A home is not just brick and mortar; it is a part of who you are.

We, at Awareness Home Funding, have always said we had one of the best careers there is.  It is a high honor to help someone with the most significant transaction in their lives.  We’ve been through the process – not just as loan officers and processors, but as home owners ourselves.  We haven’t forgotten the feelings and emotions attached to the address.  I’ve shared my story, and you have (or will have) your own.  The point in sharing mine is that we understand, completely, and are here to help you with compassion and expertise.  We’d love to be a part of your unique story and happy ever ending.

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Why Do You Run?

April 21, 2011

Awareness Home Funding shared in our April e-newsletter that three of our employees are participating in the 2011 Riverbank Run.  They are running not only for personal reasons, but to also help In The Image and their S.H.O.E.S. program which provides shoes for at-risk students in three area school districts.  Last year they helped 9,000 kids and have a goal of helping with 12,000 pairs of shoes this year!

A link for each member of the Awareness Team is included if you would like to help area kids by supporting their run.  Let us introduce them to you.

Robin Baker began running 16 years ago because of the positive influence of her father, Al Owens.  Al has been very involved in the Grand Rapids racing community for over 35 years and has passed the passion to his daughter.  Robin also likes the aerobic base it gives her for all the other activities she enjoys.

This year Robin is participating in the 5k race.  Her main goal:  to run and have a good time with her friend Shanna and to pass the passion to Shanna’s son, Kendrick.

Robin said she particularly loves the Riverbank Run because it is a great race with high energy.  “I grew up in the crowd as a little girl, waiting at the finish line for the first, second and third places to come through” shared Robin.  “You always knew when they were approaching because you could hear the roar from the crowd getting closer and closer.  And then I would wait for my dad to finish, which he would never do until he found my mom in the crowd and stopped to give her a kiss and thank her for her support.  Now I use the Riverbank run to kick-off my summer of racing fun.  My husband and I are signed up for several weekend adventure races.”

To support Robin, follow this link: http://www.active.com/donate/intheimage2011/BakerR

Shanna Black has a unique perspective on this year’s race because of her son, Kendrick.  “We are very excited to do this event together. I’m hoping that he will enjoy his first race and we can start an annual tradition of running the Riverbank Run together.” 

Shanna started running like most to stay active and healthy.  This will be her second year running the Riverbank 5k Run and has a personal goal of simply beating her finishing time from last year.

Visit this page to encourage Shanna and Kendrick: http://www.active.com/donate/intheimage2011/Shanna-Kendrick

The third member of the Awareness Team is Anthony McCullough.  Anthony started running just last year because he didn’t think he could run a 5k.  He kept running after his first race as a method of exercise for himself and his dog.  “It was the best way to give my dog exercise.  When you have a tall 100lb Doberman just walking him does not get rid of the energy he has.  So we had to move to running.”

Anthony’s goals have expanded rather quickly since his first 5k last year.  He ran in a 10K also and this year can be seen in the 25k.  He has set a personal goal of finishing in 2 hours and 20 minutes, but the primary goal is to “mainly just finish”.

Let Anthony know you care by clicking on this link: http://www.active.com/donate/intheimage2011/amccullough

Please support our runners by encouraging their efforts.  However, the primary goal is to support area at-risk kids.  It is inspiring to see how a pair of shoes can make all the difference.

Agents of Change

March 4, 2011

On a personal level the word change can be defined as making a difference in the state or condition of someone or to substitute another state or condition.  To change is to make a significant difference so that a person is distinctly different from what they were.  Change is inevitable in life for all of us.  The defining moment however, is whether or not that change is positive. 

Sometimes it is specific person or group that initiates these transformations.  They are agents of change and possess such characteristics as being sensitive, realistic, flexible, tolerant, committed, influential, confident and passionate.  Allow us to introduce you to two agents of change.

Guiding Light Mission is located on Division Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids, MI.  They provide emergency services by way of shelter and meals to anyone in need as well as overnight shelter to men.  Their long history dating back to 1929 has equipped them to provide social, physical, spiritual and intellectual needs to men in the community with the ultimate goal of allowing individuals to discover a new life in Christ. 

The START program (Spiritual Truth And Recovery Training) is a 4-6 month recovery program for men with an expectation of re-engagement into the community.  A recent example is the Recovery Runners, a group of men from the START program who are training for the River Bank Run In The Image run team.  Their stories of overcoming addictions and hardship are inspirational; and now they run to complete yet one more transformation. (You can see their personal stories here:  http://www.lifeonthestreet.org/LIVE-ON-THE-STREET/Recovery-Runners.aspx

In The Image is the other change agent in this story.  They are an organization that links gently used clothing, housewares, furniture and appliances with families in need in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Their history dates back to 1987 when a couple of individuals paid attention to the needs around them.  That same attention to detail has lead to the addition of In The Image’s SHOES program – Shoes Help Our Elementary Students.  Last year this program distributed almost 9,000 pairs of shoes to kids in Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Kentwood school districts.

Guiding Light Mission and In The Image continue to impact the community, offering people in need a hand up as agents of change.  The baton has been handed to the men running as part of the In The Image run team.  Besides running to overcome yet one more personal challenge they are running to raise awareness and funds for at-risk kids.    With every $10 raised, In The Image is able to purchase a brand new pair of shoes for an area student.  It is amazing what a simple pair of shoes can do.  Now it is your turn.  Get involved with a commitment to positively help more kids this year. 

Awareness Home Funding will be supporting a group of runners from our company who will be running for In The Image.  You can support In The Image directly by visiting http://active.com/donate/intheimage2011and donating what you feel lead to do.  Be an agent of change yourself.

A Cause, A Story & An Opportunity

January 17, 2011

As a home loan lender you know that what you doing impacts lives.  Buying a home is not something that people do everyday.  Building a relationship with a client and walking with them through the process is very rewarding.  Added to that is our business philosophy to give back with every home loan we close.  This fact brings us in contact with some amazing groups.  Allow us to introduce you to a recent opportunity we had and invite you to join in.

This year we were again invited to participate with the Grandville/Byron Center Varsity Hockey team in their quest to not only be a winning team, but to also support a local charity.  This is a project the entire team gets behind.  The organization chosen this year is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).  JDRF is a global leader in diabetes research, the go-to organization for the diabetes research community, and the best source of hope for better treatments and a cure for people with type 1 diabetes and its complications.  Most people know of diabetes, but really don’t understand the disease. 

Diabetes is a chronic and debilitating disease that affects every organ system.  There are two types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2.  Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that enables a person to get energy from the food they eat.  Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which a person’s body still produces insulin, but it is unable to use it effectively.

Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes with a new case being diagnosed every 30 seconds on average.  Worldwide, 285 million people currently have the disease and that number is expected to grow to 435 million by the year 2030. 

Diabetics do have to make changes in their life.  It requires constant attention to diet, exercise, stress, fatigue, medication, illness and more.  But, it doesn’t have to stop life.  Following is one person’s personal journey.

My Journey With Diabetes

By Stephen Flood

 I was just the normal high school student living the life.  I had no worries in the world when I was on my way to South Carolina for spring break with the baseball team.  I was just a sophomore traveling with all upper class men in a minivan.  I never felt so embarrassed when I started to have the feeling to pee…ALOT.  I would have never thought that I had diabetes then, so there I was eating starburst and chocolates.

We finally made it to our home in South Carolina, and I never felt so relieved when I could finally pee whenever I wanted to.  But it only got worse and worse. During my practices, I was taking a knee just to catch my breath while doing simple drills.  I never felt so physically exhausted in my life.  I also had the worse case of cotton mouth, my lips were so dry that I had to make an effort to open them.  My legs were dead.  My lungs felt like they were going to collapse. Sleeping was nonexistent since I was getting up every 30 minutes to go to the bathroom.  I felt bad for my roommate because I kept waking him up getting out of the bed or flushing the toilet.  I told my mom what was going on, and she told me to drink cranberry juice because she thought I had a bladder infection.

We got home from our trip, and I started to feel better so we kind of just let it be for a little bit, and if it came back again we would go to the med center.  Well, it came back, and there we were sitting in this little room waiting for the doctor. I told him my symptoms, and we ran some tests.  The blood test is what had the doctor worried.  The blood sugar level wasn’t processing.  So we tried it again, and still nothing.  The meters that the doctors had only went up to 500.  The doctors sent me right to the E.R room and told me good luck.  I was confused on why they were saying good luck, because I still had no idea what was going on.

I was laying down on this bed built for 10 year olds, I had my legs dangling from the end of the bed and a needle in my arm.  Yet I was still able to enjoy myself since we were watching the Detroit Red Wings playoff game.

 The nurse made me very comfortable and I still am very thankful for him as he calmed me down.  I asked for a pillow and he jokingly hit me with the pillow.  It was now 11:17 pm when the doctor dropped the ball.  “You do have diabetes Stephen.” The doctors explained.  It didn’t really hit me when he told me.  I just had no clue what to do.  I didn’t know what was going to happen, no clue on how everything was going to change.

Lying in my own bed that night after the doctors let me go home, it hit me.  The doctors told me that I couldn’t eat anything that night, and the last time I ate was in the morning.  I thought to myself “Wow, this stinks!”

The next day, I didn’t go to school.  I had the whole day basically learning about everything there is to diabetes.  I was there from 9am in the morning to 2 pm and I had a baseball game that day.  My dad rushed me back to the game, where I started in left field.  That’s when I realized that I can make it easily.  It’s just another new challenge I have to face every day now.

Now, I’m a senior at Grandville High School, playing three sports this year.  I’m just a little bit different than a normal person, and yet I’m still living the life.  

 So what can you do?  For starters gain a little information.  The JDRF website  has information on the disease, the latest research, support, and tips for living with diabetes.  You can also stay informed to what is happening locally on their Facebook page .

Second, get involved!  January 29, 2011 the Grandville/Byron Center Varsity Hockey team will be hosting the Second Annual Charity Game.  This is a great evening of hockey all while supporting JDRF.  Game starts at 4:00pm at the Georgetown Ice Arena in Hudsonville, MI.  An auction of collectable sports memorabilia and more will take place after the game.

One Really Good Day

January 6, 2011

Yesterday was awesome!  Let me start by saying it wasn’t due to the sun shining on newly fallen snow or that I won the lottery.  (Just for the record I didn’t even play.)  Yesterday was a truly great day because I was able to visit three area non-profits with gifts of support to help them continue their efforts.  For extra measure I even threw in a visit to a new friend who is organizing an upcoming event you really should attend.

The reason for these visits was the result of the AHF Charity Gridiron Challenge game we have been playing this NFL season.  Every week we encouraged friends, family, co-workers and supporters of all non-profits to register and play by picking the teams they felt would win their respective games.  The player with the most correct picks received a $50 gift card.  The non-profit organization they were playing for received $250 from Awareness.  While the game created some friendly competition and interesting office dynamics, the most important part was the ability to support some great organizations. 

The day started with a brief stop to see Jay Starkey, Executive Director at In The Image.  This is an organization that connects families in need with donated clothing, furniture, appliances and more.  Every year they also help area at-risk kids get a new pair of shoes for school.  Last year they were able to help nearly 9,000 kids and have a goal of helping 12,000 kids this year.  Jay, his staff and many more friends played with great enthusiasm all season long with a desire to win “at least just one week”.  That was just what they did the last week of the regular season thanks to a long-time friend of Jay’s.  $250 to In The Image means helping 25 kids with new shoes.  This day was getting brighter as I began to see what these organizations can do with a relatively few bucks.

I then made my way across town to Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.  If you have not heard about all the excitement going on there lately where have you been?  Gilda’s Club is a place where people of all ages gather to learn about cancer, share experiences with others, and have the opportunity to laugh along the way.  This March Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids will celebrate 10 years of keeping that signature red door open and warmly welcoming all who want to enter with Laugh Fest.  This is the first annual 10 day event that is sure to tickle every funny bone you have. 

I was extremely honored to deliver to them as our grand prize winner, a check for $2500.  It was fun to watch the faces of three weekly winners who also happen to be on the staff of Gilda’s Club beam with pride at their successful efforts.  However, it quickly sank in that this money also meant they had more work to do, more lives to help, more smiles to share.  Incidentally I also had another contribution for them.  You see the real difference in the Awareness business is that we make a contribution of $250 with every home loan we close; and a client had  just asked us to help Gilda’s Club as a result of their loan.  That is one part of my job that will never grow old.

I took a slight detour from delivering checks from the Charity Gridiron Challenge game to deliver one for the next event we are sponsoring.  The Grandville/Byron Center Varsity Hockey team is hosting their second annual charity game.  This year they are raising funds and awareness of Juvenile Diabetes by supporting JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).  A team mom decided to chair the event this year since her son, a senior on the team, has type 1 diabetes.  (If you missed his story in our January e-newsletter, sign up to receive it for free.)  The charity game is January 29 at the Georgetown Ice Arena.  Visit our Facebook page for all the details under the Events tab.

By now I wondered if there was anything to top my excitement.  I had already brightened the day of 3 groups and had one more stop to make – Harbor House Ministries.  Peg Driesenga is the Executive Director of a Christian residence for people with severe mental and physical disabilities.  Like Gilda’s Club, Harbor House is not a place of dimmed lights and hushed tones.  The rooms are open and bright with an air of energy and excitement.  Laughter and conversations drift from all around.  Life is in full swing here.

Peg showed me The Cove, a new activity and physical therapy building on their property.  They have a personal goal of remaining debt free and our contribution was another partner making sure that stayed a reality.  I was really impressed by the love and compassion the staff at Harbor House possesses to care for their residents.  Hopefully we can bring you their full story sometime.

This was one really good day.  And to think it all started with a simple game of picking football teams.  I guess the bottom line is that it’s not about how big the act of kindness is, but that you do act.  It’s not about the value of the check, but the value of the intention behind it.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day, what are you doing to make a difference with yours?

Rewarding Benefits

December 27, 2010

This past spring we posted an article titled, “Paying It Forward”.  Besides the obvious theme based on the title, we touched on the fact that giving benefits both the receiver and giver because helping someone else is empowering.  You can read our full article, but one of the points was that paying it forward or initiating a random act of kindness isn’t about the size of the gift or act.  There is a great sense of accomplishment and goodwill when you put someone else’s needs before your own. 

This past Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press ran an article written by Debra Levi Holtz on the same topic that gives credence to our conclusions.  Based on studies conducted at UC Berkeley, people give because of a deep desire to benefit others.  The interesting part was what motivated that desire. 

For some it was because of their personality, upbringing or just personal experiences.  For others, giving was a way to earn respect and gain influence.  Giving was also found to be contagious in that people tend to give when they have been on the receiving end at one point themselves.  Why do you give?  Why do you help?  Perhaps you don’t even know why.

Regardless of the why’s though, giving is something that just offers benefits all the way around.  Whether you are blessed with the gift of hospitality and a smile that warms hearts or are able to give financially, find some way to give.  For when you empty your hands of the blessings you have received, you open yourself up to receive so much more.

Christmas Gift Suggestions

December 21, 2010

I would suspect that my family is like most at Christmas time.  We give each other a list of things we would like to receive as gifts.  These lists are never created out of selfish, wanton desire; but simply suggestions to get the creative juices of the gift giver going.  But have you ever had to shop for that one person who seemed to have everything?  What do you give them?

My cousins and I faced this challenge when it came to my grandfather.  Grandpa was a man who really did have everything – especially the things that mattered most.  So we granddaughters decided to go outside the box one year – literally, and it was an idea that really fit.  During that year, Grandma had passed away after losing her battle with cancer.  We made a donation in her honor to the local chapter of the American Cancer Society.  Grandpa was deeply moved by our act.  We were reminded that a gift isn’t always about the thing, but the thought and meaning behind it.  This was the perfect gift.

Unfortunately, there are many other families who have a completely different challenge.  How do you create the feeling of Christmas and participate in the exchanging of gifts when the budget has nothing left to offer in the way of Christmas shopping, let alone any type of lavish meal?  Thinking outside of any boxes seems to fit here too.  Gifts that aren’t about things, but ones that have real meaning and permanent value.  Gifts that aren’t about writing a check, but ones that offer the gift of you. 

I’m talking about giving your time, your abilities, and your expertise.  Our Awareness Works 4 U program has introduced us to many non-profit organizations.  Some are more formal in their structure; others are simply the result of a couple individuals.  But all of them can be described as passionate people, called to champion a cause.  Most of whom are volunteers. 

Non-profit organizations need monetary contributions to keep going, but they also need help to get the work done.  Think about the amazing gift you could give by donating your time.  Think of the impact you could have on your community.  Think about the values you could be teaching your kids.  Think about the fullness your own heart would feel.  Christmas is the season of giving.  But no one ever said that gift had to come in a box.

A Doctor, A Loan Originator & a Client…

November 17, 2010

What do a doctor and a mortgage loan originator have in common?  No, this isn’t some riddle solved by a humorous response, this is a serious question. 

We have grown accustomed to asking for referrals when it comes to our medical professionals.  Whom we choose to trust with our medical welfare and that of our families often receives rather intense scrutiny.  We may start with a referral from a trusted source, but we often keep going with some research into patient comments, legal challenges and valid licensing.  All of these are good steps to take when you need to trust someone else with help in managing your health.

Yet, how much time do we spend investigating the person who will be helping us with perhaps the single most important transaction in our lives – the purchase of a home (not to mention a refinance)?  Some consumers will hold due diligence in this matter, but more often than not we are swayed by the suggestion of advertisements.  Now don’t get us wrong, marketing has a specific use and place.  But when you need to provide someone with a significant amount of personal and financial information, shouldn’t you do a little checking first?

Let’s go back to the initial question of what a doctor and mortgage loan officer have in common.  Doctors have long since taken the Hippocratic oath upon receiving their degrees.  Believed to have been originally written by Hippocrates, a doctor recites this oath promising to uphold and respect the profession they are entering, the assumed authority given and for the people they will help.  Doctors promise to be accountable for their actions and to maintain an air of humility in a continuing desire to teach and be teachable.  A physician also promises to act in the best interest of their patients by doing what is best for the patient, guarding their privacy and understanding there is more involved than just the specific medical situation at hand.  In a matter of speaking, Mortgage loan originators now have the same set of standards too.

The SAFE Act of 2008 (Secure And Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008) was developed “in order to increase uniformity, reduce regulatory burden, enhance consumer protection and reduce fraud”.  All of the items mentioned above that a doctor adheres to in the Hippocratic Oath can also be said of reputable mortgage loan originators.  Through the National Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) uniform license applications, requirements and testing have been put into place.  This is actually an advantageous move for loan originators and consumers alike.  In the same way that you can confirm information about your doctor through state Department of Community Health websites, information about your loan originator can be confirmed through the National Mortgage Licensing System and Registry website.

Does your mortgage loan originator respect their profession and the authority they have been given? 

Does your mortgage loan originator respect you?

Is your mortgage loan originator accountable for their actions?

Are they trustworthy and reliable?

Does your mortgage loan originator have a teachable spirit – both to help you understand your loan and to learn more themselves?

Does your mortgage loan originator act in your best interest?

Does your mortgage loan originator respect the confidentiality of your personal information?

Does your mortgage loan originator understand your personal goals and that you are much more that just a set of figures?

They should.  Expect more, and use a mortgage loan originator who is committed to working for you.

Shawn DeVries

October 5, 2010

There are certain times in life when you sit back and contemplate the lessons you have learned – those personal observations about who you really are.  These can be stepping stones to the future that provide motivation to continue along a given path or opportunity to change if you don’t like the current results.  Here are a few of mine:

I have learned I will no longer have the ability to claim the status of being the youngest person in the office/department.

I have learned to accept and appreciate my identity not as my real name, but simply as my children’s mom to all their friends.

I have learned that I have an odd sense of humor that can be used to lighten a mood or merely embarrass my kids into obedience – both of which give me great pleasure.

I have learned I can be very shy.

I have learned there is great value in learning something new everyday.

I have learned that things and experiences that life defines as “failure” can actually be blessings.

I have learned the value of prayer, faith and hope.

I have confirmed that a budget is not a 4-letter word, but rather a gift of control.

I have learned that I am indeed a control freak.

I have come to appreciate the therapeutic benefits of close friends, intense laughter, a good cry and chocolate; and that they are much more affordable then actual therapy.

I have learned there are many levels to myself and that each one experiences life with great passion and emotion.

I have learned that meeting personal goals is incredibly rewarding.

I have learned to accept help when offered and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a display of incredible strength.

I have learned that humility brings perspective on what really matters most.

I have learned the value of real friends.

I have finally determined what I want to be when I grow up.

I am determined to conquer my fears.  My fears of spiders, snakes and heights however are exempt from that statement.

I have learned that I still have a lot to learn and I am learning to enjoy the process along the way.

Laura Compton

September 8, 2010

So many times people think “it’s just me…I won’t make a difference”.  Whether it’s helping a charity, a stranger or sticking up for what you think is right, one’s voice or action can make a difference.

In my neighborhood, we have a water problem.  Everyone liked to complain about it, but no one wanted to take the bull by the horns and do something about it.  They all felt that they would not get anywhere with the government bodies.  Since my property was affected the most, I couldn’t stand by and not do something.  My father always said, “If you don’t like something, then do something about it; otherwise you have no right to complain”.

So I went to countless Township meetings, took pictures, got other government agencies involved, walked the neighborhood and got signatures for a petition.  A plan is in place to install a drain in our neighborhood to alleviate the water.  It has been a long process, and my work isn’t done yet until that drain is installed.  I was one voice for the neighborhood and accomplished what others didn’t think was possible.

The same holds true in every day life.  Your actions don’t have to be large…many times it’s the small gestures that have the most impact.  The elderly lady who is a dollar or two short to pay for her groceries; the single mom down the street who could use a couple of hours for herself but can’t afford a babysitter; the lonely neighbor whose family is all gone or moved away…give the dollar or two or more so the elderly lady can eat; offer to watch the single mom’s kids so she can have a break; visit the lonely neighbor and brighten up their day.  There are so many ways to help people, whether it’s supporting a charity or just helping a neighbor.  You may not feel that these simple gestures will do much, but you would be surprised to know how much it meant to the person receiving it. 

Give of yourself and in return, life will give back to you.