By Scott Fitzgerald

Staff Writer



Marquita Cisneros arrived here in 2002 from California.

During her short time in Enid, she has secured a job with Advance Food Co. and become a homeowner.

“I never thought it was possible for me to own a house, but now I’ve been blessed with a place I can really call home,” said Cisneros, a product packer at Advance, about her tidy two-bedroom house on South 14th.

The two facts of working at Advance and becoming a homeowner are interrelated.

Oklahoma businesses like Advance have linked with the Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) incentive provided by Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma Inc., a statewide economic development firm, in conjunction with Fannie Mae and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development to provide a win-win situation for everyone involved.

It basically works like this.

An Advance employee must be with the company for at least a year and be a first-time home buyer or have not owned a home for three years.

The company will provide the employee with a $2,500 loan that is forgiven after three years of continuous employment.

“If you leave Advance before three years, you owe us that amount ($2,500). We put a lien on your property,” said Janet Byrum, manager of people services and benefits at Advance.

REI will match the Advance loan for a $5,000 total down payment.

Other housing assistance for some qualified applicants can be offered through Enid’s Communi-ty Development Support Association to increase the down payment, Byrum said.

“Fannie Mae helped us write the plan originally. REI came to us a year ago and said we have a matching grant for your company loans. If you say yes, we say yes,” Byrum said.

Of the 51 loans Advance has given to qualified employees who have bought a home at all plant locations, 39 have been in Enid. Only two people in Enid have not had their loans forgiven.

“When you have a program like this, you hope to retain quality and dedicated employees,” Byrum said.

Owning a house certainly has its advantages, Cisneros said.

“My house payment is $125 less than what I had been paying in rent, so now I am going to be saving that money for central air conditioning,” Cisneros said.

Wesley Rainey, his wife, Carissa, and their two sons have been in their new three-bedroom home for about two months. Rainey is a truck driver for Advance. He utilized the company’s housing benefit plan, matched by REI, and received additional assistance of $4,995 from Enid’s Community Development Support Association.

“We could not have bought this house without the assistance we received through these great programs,” Rainey said. “It was such a smooth process, and we’re paying just a little bit more in house payments than we were in rent, but we have the freedom to do what we want and we are building equity to help us down the road when we need a larger house for our growing family.”

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