RED OAK - Today will mark the first Fourth of July Wilma Evans of Red Oak will spend in her new home. One can be sure she will be counting many firsts over the course of the next year — first fire in the fireplace, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas and New Year.

Evans moved into her house on Moonlight on Feb. 27 of this year, an event she considered a blessing. Evans, who never believed she would be able to own a home, much less a newly constructed house, purchased the home through a USDA Rural Development 502 Homeownership program.

“This is just a blessing,” Evans said. “I’m just so happy.”

On Friday, June 29, Evans welcomed representatives of the USDA Rural Development, representatives of Thuman Realty and Coleman Homes into her home, where she was recognized with a certificate of congratulations from USDA Rural Development as part of June’s Homeownership Month.

“I’m thrilled with the house and all that you did,” said Evans, as tears welled in her eyes. “I’m thankful that you allow God to work through your life. You allow him to use you and you make people very happy.

“Every day I think of how impossible it might have been. You made it possible,” Evans said.

For the last seven years, Evans had lived in a rental property in Lancaster. Her plan was to live in that home with her 12-year-old grandson, Zachary Hughes, for several more years.

“I have planned on living there a long time,” Evans said. “Whenever the landlady said she was going to sell the house, I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then I started the process of looking for a place to live.”

She made contact with Thuman Realty in order to look for a home, where she met Tammy Thuman Garr, who realized Evans would be a perfect candidate for the Rural Development program.

“When my mother sold real estate when I was in high school, she worked with this program,” Thuman Garr said. “It’s a program that is available for working Americans based on income and the size of the family. Some programs are handouts — this is not. You must have a job and you must qualify.”

Thuman Garr and Evans worked closely with Cyndi Estill, rural development specialist, and the staff of the USDA Rural Development office in Hillsboro.

“The best part about this is it helps those who think they can’t purchase a home,” said Johnny Smith, area director of USDA Rural Development in Cleburne. Smith said the program can allow people to purchase home for a very small down payment, if any, and monthly payments are usually less than the cost of rent.

The USDA Rural Development 502 Homeownership program allows for low and very low income households the opportunity for homeownership through direct loans at subsidized rates and terms. Rural Development also utilizes leveraged homeownership loans in the program, giving lower financing costs with no mortgage insurance on the first mortgage. Properties must be in a designated rural area and borrowers must be very low or low income.

“Rural applies in Ellis County everywhere except within the city limits of Ennis and Waxahachie,” Thuman Garr said.

Before becoming acquainted with the program, Evans’ thought was, ‘Who, at 65, is going to lend you money?’ ”

However, Evans was pleasantly surprised when she discussed the program with Thuman Garr.

“All the things they talked about were right down my alley,” Evans said.

Evans immediately began looking at homes she thought she would be able to afford with assistance from the program, never thinking to look at homes in the many new subdivisions in the area.

“Then they said, ‘No, you’re getting a new home,’ ” Evans said. “My heart was so full.”

On Moonlight, Evans found the house of her dreams in a home built by Coleman Homes.

Evans fought her emotions many times on Friday, often taking the time to look around her home, which is filled with black and white photos from her childhood, quilts and curtains made by her sister, and d/cor coordinated by her niece.

“I was a single mom for 22 years and my parents helped me buy a new home,” Evans said. “But I never thought I’d own my own home again.”

“Mrs. Evans is a great success story. We wish (Evans) many years of happiness,” Smith said.

“It’s always a delight when you can put a friend in a home. It makes my life complete. Wilma gave me a plaque that said I was a blessing — she doesn’t know what a blessing she and Zach are,” Thuman Garr said. “It’s very emotional when you go to closing and someone looks at you and says, ‘Thank you.’ It’s nice to be in a position where you can change someone’s life.”

“Out of all the houses I’ve sold, for most people it’s a business transaction,” said Cary Walker, sales consultant with Coleman Homes. “Then I’ll get a customer like Mrs. Evans and when you close, you feel like you’ve helped someone.”

“I really appreciate everything. I can’t tell you how much every day is a blessing. I certainly feel like God is working through y’all,” Evans said to the many people who helped her purchase her home. “You know what — this is a good thing. I don’t know what I did to deserve this.

“I just know there will be some more people helped by this. I’ve tried to share it with more people. I always like to see other people get something they deserve,” Evans said.

Evans readily thanks all involved in the purchasing process — the people at Rural Development, Thuman Realty and Coleman Homes.

“I appreciate Tammy. She is a bundle of energy. She does what she says. She sees people in need and she tries to help them,” Evans said. “Cary at Coleman — for them to go so far as to reduce the price of this house.”

“God moves and we don’t know he’s moving. He’s doing his business,” Evans said. “When you see this, you think, ‘He knew all the time.’ ”

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