WATERLOO - Jamekia Washington never dreamed she could achieve home ownership in less than a year.
For a long time, she yearned for a cozy house to call her own with her young daughter. But with a full-time job as a support staff member at Black Hawk County juvenile court services, few savings and $2,300 in credit card debt, Washington, 24, did not know where to start.
With the help of an Iowa Credit Union Foundation program that offered matching funds, last month she moved into a cute, two-bedroom house on East Fourth Street.
"I just thought it was awesome that there was actually a program out there that matched you dollar for dollar. You can't find anything out there like it," she said.
Washington heard of the program 10 months ago through Operation Threshold, a Waterloo nonprofit organization. Combined with federal incentives for first-time home buyers, she saw a unique opportunity.
To earn matching credit union dollars, she enrolled in financial management classes and deposited money into a savings account for six consecutive months.
To save enough to meet the since-extended Nov. 30 deadline for federal dollars, she took a second job at Walmart and worked 70 hours per week.
In three months, she had paid off $2,300 in debt and started aggressively saving for a down payment.
Chad Kaeppel, a representative at Cedar Falls Community Credit Union, said Washington's face glowed with excitement when she handed him the purchase agreement on her home.
"You can see the smile, the excitement of owning your first home," he said.
Since enrollment began a year ago, 39 people have joined. Washington is only the third Iowan to complete the program.
Marybeth Foster, executive director of Iowa Credit Union Foundation, said she generally seeks low-income people motivated to open a business, buy a home or finance an education.
Washington has taken the financial management lessons she learned to heart. She still works 60 hours a week at two jobs because she wants to build a comfortable savings cushion.
"I just kind of thought since I'm just moving, I don't know how my expenses are going to play out. So it will be good for me to keep my part-time job just to make sure I keep myself ahead financially," she said.