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Loan gives homeowners a chance to rebuild

June 11, 2007|By KAREN HANNA

A couple who lost their two cats and home in a fire celebrated a second chance at the American dream Monday as officials from a federal-housing program marveled at the property they refused to leave.

Pam and Mark Henry said giving up the gardens and canopy of trees on their Leitersburg property was out of the question, even after a fire destroyed their mobile home in 2004.

Without a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program, Mark Henry said he doubted they would be able to rebuild.

"The whole thing is don't give up, to have faith and don't give up," said Henry, 45, as he and his wife showed visitors their property where officials marked National Homeownership Month.

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Marlene Elliott, Maryland/Delaware state director for USDA Rural Development, said the program provides eligible applicants, like the Henrys, with loans for home and property purchases. The loans require no down payments and interest rates, which range from 1 percent to 6 percent, are determined by applicants' income.

"It's allowing people such as the Henrys to own their future, to become part of the American dream, which is to become a homeowner," said Peter Morgan, chief of staff of Rural Development's housing and community facilities program.

After returning from a garden show to find their mobile home destroyed by flames, Mark Henry said he and his wife were shocked, but they were determined to rebuild.

"The house had burned down while we were gone, so it was traumatic to walk around and look at everything, and (we) kept saying, 'I don't believe this, I don't believe this,'" Henry said.

Three years after the blaze, Pam Henry, 48, still expresses sadness when she talks about the two cats she lost. The couple's dogs survived, but they didn't fare well once the family moved to Waynesboro, Pa., offices they converted to living space.

After awhile, the couple said, the dogs moved back to their kennel on the property where their mobile home once stood. Pam Henry said she stopped by twice a day to check on the dogs, and she and Mark Henry said they camped in the yard on weekends.

In 2005, Pam Henry said her husband broke 13 shovels landscaping the yard, where butterflies flitted from flower to flower Monday. Fountains in ponds gurgled as a boy swung on a rope hammock surrounded by terraced gardens. Nearby, a rooster crowed.

The Henrys said they were grateful the loan program helped them rebuild, since they never wanted to leave their little slice of paradise. Last year, they moved into their new home.

"What we decided is we would never lose it, even if it meant just keeping it for the property," Mark Henry said.

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