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Maximum Impact:3 Tips for Getting Ready to go House Hunting

  
  
  
homebuyer education

By Tyler A Snell from Almost There

 

House buying season is just around the corner, which means there’s no time like the present to prepare yourself for the task of house hunting. Here are three tips that will help make the process easier before you even start.

Get Your Budget in Order

It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how much money you have—a budget for how much you can spend on purchasing a house still needs to be made. Budgets are rock hard reminders of what you can and cannot swing financially. Smart people have been known to get in over their heads by overstepping their budgets when house hunting. People have also gotten their hopes too high for a house they know they can’t afford from the start, especially when the mortgage lender tell them they can qualify for more of a house than their budget can really afford.

Setting a budget can be a difficult task, especially when money is already tight, but it’s something every homebuyer needs to do.  The Financial Fitness course at NeighborWorks® Columbus can help you create a budget by categorizing your spending. This course can show you what expenses you need to cut while also helping you tackle your debt. Armed with this information, coming up with the maximum amount you can spend on a new home will be much easier and will benefit you in the long run.

Don’t Be Afraid of Options

Buying a home is, arguably, one of the biggest financial undertakings you’ll encounter in your life. Finding the right home in the right price range can be daunting, especially without some form of help.  NeighborWorks® Columbus has a few options you can look at, including low interest rate loans and affordable down payment assistance programs in Georgia and Alabama. Financial help and guidance can open your eyes to the houses you can truly afford which will make house hunting a better experience for you and your family.  

Keep Stress to a Minimum

Looking for a new home can, and is, for the most part, stressful even before you actually start. You want the best of the best without ever having to compromise or lower your standards. However, like life, searching for a home doesn’t always go the way you plan.

Sometimes it’s hard to look at a place and picture what it could be because, essentially, every house you look at is your future. That, in itself, can bring on the weight of the world. The urge to move, the possibility of competing offers, and time restraints can force you to make a life-altering decision quickly. So stress, no matter the type, price, or location of the houses you’re looking at, will most likely rear its ugly head during this process.

Through the NeighborWorks® HomeOwnership Center you can plan ahead to help lessen the weight of stress. By signing up for pre-purchase counseling you can learn to become homebuyer ready before you even start your house hunting process.  With all of the technical issues taken care of before you start looking, the search for your ideal home will become more straightforward.

If you’re about to start the journey of house hunting, remember that creating a budget, figuring out your options, and keeping your stress levels down can make searching for a new home more enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to seek help and don’t let anxiety dim the pleasure of the process or force you into making decisions you might later regret.

About NeighborWorks Columbus

NeighborWorks® Columbus’, a community-based 501c (3) nonprofit organization, mission is to provide access to fit and affordable housing for all citizens of low to moderate income.  NeighborWorks® Columbus’ vision and deep commitment remains to improve the quality of life through the elimination of substandard housing and the revitalization of target neighborhoods.  For more information about NeighborWorks® Columbus and its services, visit www.nwcolumbus.org

Home Matters: Michael Willis - Natural Reaction to Serve

  
  
  

michael willis, neighborworks, east highlandMichael Willis' first encounter with NeighborWorks® Columbus was as a life-long resident of the East Highland Community.  

"We were getting ready to put a community center in my neighborhood, and NeighborWorks was real instrumental in helping me get building supplies," Willis said. "So I wanted to serve on the Board."  

Nine years later, Willis remains one of the longest-serving members on the NeighborWorks Board of Directors.  

"I really like how they (NeighborWorks) care about the City of Columbus, different communities, how the Board always wants to make a community better, and they work diligently to make that happen," Willis said.

As a long-time member of the board, Willis said he has seen the organization evolve in several ways. He said when he first started working with NeighborWorks, in particular, there was a heavy focus on education programs, which he and his neighborhood benefited from personally.

"They've come in and helped us clean up the community, from picking up trash to helping sponsor programs for us," Willis said. "There was also a slumlord with a set of apartments, and they were real instrumental in getting that taken care of."  

Willis said while there are differences in the work the organization does—like the addition of the Columbus Cottage Program—there isn't much change in what drives the work.  

"I've just seen NeighborWorks evolve from one caring phase to another. As Cathy (Williams, President & CEO), sees a need, she brings it to the board, and we always support her. The staff are some great, wonderful, professional people, and they are good at what they do. "I'm just proud to be a part of it."  

In addition to his work on the board, Willis owns his own business Uptown Mobile Carwash, a venture he started at the age of 31. "I just like a clean car, and I made a business out of it."  

Michael has a 33-year-old son and four grandchildren and attends Antioch Baptist Church.  

About NeighborWorks Columbus

NeighborWorks® Columbus’, a community-based 501c (3) nonprofit organization, mission is to provide access to fit and affordable housing for all citizens of low to moderate income.  NeighborWorks® Columbus’ vision and deep commitment remains to improve the quality of life through the elimination of substandard housing and the revitalization of target neighborhoods.  For more information about NeighborWorks® Columbus and its services, visit www.nwcolumbus.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Maximum Impact: Service fits Rebecca Cartee like a glove

  
  
  

1781946 10152000277644862 1632723274 n resized 600Rebecca spending quality time with nieces, Bailee and Emilia

When Rebecca Cartee found her way to NeighborWorks Columbus almost 12 years ago, it was like the perfect fit.

Rebecca has been with NeighborWorks almost since the organization's start in 2002, hired originally as the grant coordinator and currently serving as the grants and compliance officer. Her heart for helping others to achieve the American Dream, combined with her family background and love of writing, makes her role at NeighborWorks exactly right.

It took Rebecca a few stepping stones to find her way to the organization, though. She first served as a counselor for Juvenile Services for her career, while writing grants as a hobby on the side for the Homeless Resource Network, where she served on the Board of Directors.

"I had a hard time achieving results counseling juvenile girls who didn't want to change," she said. Her mom saw an ad for Enrichment Services Program, Inc. for a grant writer position, and Rebecca decided to give it a shot and took her first official job in the field.

"I discovered I actually like doing this so much better," she said.

Rebecca's grandfather was a home builder, and when the NeighborWorks position became available, she knew she had to take it.

"We help a group of people who ordinarily wouldn't think they could have a house," she said. "I like helping people who fall through everybody else's cracks."

The Columbus Cottage Program, in particular, is especially close to Rebecca's heart.

Ultimately, Rebecca's drive for all her nonprofit work comes down to her love for people.

"There is such a big difference in our society between those who have and those that don't. It's incumbent upon us who have even a little to help," she said. "If we can help, I think we're supposed to."

Rebecca also has a side business, Editing by Rebecca, where she edits manuscripts for independent authors. She started her venture in October and has had great success already.

About NeighborWorks Columbus

NeighborWorks® Columbus’, a community-based 501c (3) nonprofit organization, mission is to provide access to fit and affordable housing for all citizens of low to moderate income. NeighborWorks® Columbus’ vision and deep commitment remains to improve the quality of life through the elimination of substandard housing and the revitalization of target neighborhoods.  For more information about NeighborWorks® Columbus and its services, visit www.nwcolumbus.org.

Holli Melancon

NeighborWorks Columbus blogger

Seth Brown & NeighborWorks: A Perfect Pair

  
  
  

crime prevention, housing, affordable housing, columbus cottage program, giving back to your community, inside neighborworks, columbus ga

For Seth Brown, the city's Director of Crime Prevention, serving on the NeighborWorks Columbus Board of Directors has been only too fitting.

"I never realized that a lot of what they do correlates to what we (the Office of Crime Prevention) do here in Columbus," said Seth. "Not only is NeighborWorks tackling a house here and there, but they are taking a holistic approach of trying to tackle the City of Columbus."

That's exactly what Seth says the Crime Prevention Office works to do, with two focuses: grants and grassroots activities.

The city's office serves as a grantor to several area organizations working to combat crime prevention in one of five ways: recreation, education, community policing, drug and alcohol prevention, or employment.

Seth spends the rest of his time working on grassroots efforts to crime prevention in working with neighborhood associations.  He has been working in this role for the last three years and has been a member of the NeighborWorks Board of Directors for about four months.

"This is the only board I've ever wanted to be on," he said. "I don't think people really understand how much of an asset they are to our community." The perfect fit between these two organizations is that a lot of the work NeighborWorks does assists in crime prevention in the long run, Seth said.

"There is a program called Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. The concept is if your home has a broken window that you never get fixed, then eventually it will lead to another broken window and that will start to spread throughout your neighborhood," he said. "Getting rid of slums and blight creates happier neighborhoods."

Moreover, people investing in their neighborhoods, ultimately, lead to less crime.

Seth references Bibb Village as a good example of this, as their neighborhood association has banded together to not just cut out crime but to create a healthy, vibrant community of neighbors.

Since joining the board, Seth said one of his favorite surprises has been watching the Columbus Cottage Program unfold.

Seth is originally from Phenix City and moved away for a brief time around college. He has been back in town with his wife for the last 11 years. They have two children, Mary Paige, 12, who attends Richards Middle School and Wesley, 10, who attends the Columbus Ivy Program. The Browns worship at First Baptist Church in Columbus. 

Maximum Impact: Have You Heard About Tax Identity Theft?

  
  
  

identity theft, maximum impact, american dream, affordable housing

Ready for tax season? If you haven’t heard about tax identity theft, you may not be.

Tax identity theft happens when someone files a phony tax return using your personal information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund from the IRS. It also can happen when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job or claims your child as a dependent on a tax return. Tax identity theft is the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission. The IRS says tax identity theft is a top priority and says it has hired new staff, explored new technologies, and adopted new procedures to fight it.

For these reasons, I am participating in Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, along with other federal, state, and local officials and law enforcement agencies. Here’s what you can do to lessen the chance you’ll be a victim:   

  • File your tax return early in the tax season, if you can.

  • Use a secure internet connection if you file electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office.

  • Shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you no longer need.

  • Respond to all mail from the IRS as soon as possible.

  • Know the IRS won’t contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, it will contact you by mail.

  • Don’t give out your Social Security number (SSN) unless necessary.

  • Research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.

  • If your SSN has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

  • Check your credit report at least once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name.

What if you’re a victim? Tax identity theft victims typically find out about the crime when they get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in the their name, or IRS records show they received wages from an employer they don’t know. If you get a letter like this, don’t panic. Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. 

More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft, the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft, and from our local IRS office at:

6068 Business Park Drive

Suite 124

Columbus, GA 31909      

Monday-Friday - 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

(706) 494-9079 

About NeighborWorks Columbus

NeighborWorks® Columbus’, a community-based 501c (3) nonprofit organization, mission is to provide access to fit and affordable housing for all citizens of low to moderate income. NeighborWorks® Columbus’ vision and deep commitment remains to improve the quality of life through the elimination of substandard housing and the revitalization of target neighborhoods. For more information about NeighborWorks® Columbus and its services, visit nwcolumbus.org or call 706-324-HOME (4663).

Maximum Impact: Make homeownership your 2014 goal

  
  
  

new years resolutions, goal setting, achieving the american dream, affordable housing, affordable housing in Columbus, downpayment assistance, financial counseling, first time homebuyers, home ownership

Make a checklist before setting out to buy your new home. Photo credit: Alan Cleaver

Have you always had the dream of being a homeowner? This could be your year!

Purchasing a home is one of the greatest investments a person can make in his or her lifetime, and becoming a homeowner may not be as far-reaching a goal as some may think.

Especially when you throw an organization like NeighborWorks Columbus into the equation.

The NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center has helped people in many different types of situations successfully purchase their first homes.

While it may take more than one year to position yourself for a home purchase, there is no time like a new year to motivate yourself to get on the right track and begin taking the steps needed toward reaching this ultimate goal.

Here are some of the ways NeighborWorks Homeownership Center can help you reach your goals in 2014:

1. Homeownership Counseling Services

The pre-purchase counselors help you evaluate your own situation and determine what steps you need to make to be homebuyer ready. This could include a plan to get out of debt, establish a savings account or find more sustainable income.

2. Education

NeighborWorks offers three types of educational courses: homebuyer workshops; financial fitness training; and monthly orientations. Homebuyer Workshops cover various aspects of things you need to know to become a homeowner. Financial Fitness training teaches money management skills, like creating a budgeting, cutting your expenses, getting out of debt and establishing a savings account. Monthly orientations provide an overview of the NeighborWorks home ownership services and steps.

3. Lending

NeighborWorks also assists homebuyers in securing the funding needed to purchase their home with access to homebuyer education and counseling programs in Georgia and Alabama. This can include assistance with down payments through city and state grants, for example. There is also special assistance available for first-time homebuyers who are in the military or veteran spouses or Aflac employees.

To begin working with NeighborWorks, you must first qualify in most cases. For information on this or any of the non-profits programs, contact NeighborWorks at 706-324-HOME (4663).

 

Maximum Impact: A look behind the ‘Miracle on 43rd Street’

  
  
  

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As Mrs. Mary Alice Cooper Jenkins walked through the front door of her new forever home Thursday, her eyes welled with tears of joy. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

For this 83-year-old woman who had been living in substandard housing conditions for years, this truly was a “Miracle on 43rd Street,” as Mayor Teresa Tomlinson put it.

It was particularly fitting that Ms. Mary received the keys to her new home just in time for Christmas but not something that was really surprising to anyone who has crossed paths with NeighborWorks Columbus’ sixth Columbus Cottage Program recipient.

“This just doesn’t happen overnight,” said President & CEO Cathy Williams, pointing to a board full of sponsors of Cottage No. 6. “What we found out, Ms. Mary, is that a lot of people wanted to touch your life because you have touched so many lives.”

Ms. Mary has worked as a housekeeper for many families in Columbus. One of those fortunate people was Susan Milligan, who co-chaired the committee for Cottage No. 6, along with the mayor.

“She became affectionately known as ‘My Mary’ to my whole family. She helped me become a wife, a mother by her example and helped me graciously end that marriage and enter into another one,” Susan said.

And now, Ms. Mary, who has helped create homes for so many in the community, truly has a home to call her own.

“I’m so proud for my sister. She deserves this,” said Eugene Knighton, Ms. Mary’s older sister.

 David Fox, Executive Vice President of Real Estate Production for NeighborWorks, shed some light on some of what went on behind the scenes to make this miracle happen.

“As much as (the cottages) are all the same, they are all different,” David said. “On this one, we had a plan and were ready to go.”

But, the program they were going to use to build this cottage fell through for various reasons.

David said three people, in particular, made a key difference in keeping this cottage together.

First, Cathy Williams had actually drawn the plans for the home on her computer. “That was helpful because we still had a plan (when the other manufacturer fell through), so she deserves a lot of praise,” he said.

James Johnson, owner/contractor for Triple J, also played an instrumental role in getting the team of subcontractors together quickly.

And, David said one person who truly held the project together was Wanda Jenkins, marketing and communications for NeighborWorks Columbus. “Wanda held the whole thing together with all the trials and tribulations we had with this one,” he said.

 About the Columbus Cottage Program

The Columbus Cottage Program is a public/private partnership made possible with philanthropic support from local foundations, organizations and community support. Started in 2008, NeighborWorks® Columbus, Columbus Consolidated Government and local community leaders, sought to eliminate substandard housing for impoverished elderly citizens. Since then, several cottages have been built for well deserving seniors.

About NeighborWorks Columbus

NeighborWorks® Columbus, a community-based 501c (3) nonprofit organization, mission is to provide access to fit and affordable housing for all citizens of low to moderate income. NeighborWorks® Columbus’ vision and deep commitment remains to improve the quality of life through the elimination of substandard housing and the revitalization of target neighborhoods and create opportunities for qualified homeowners in Columbus. For more information about NeighborWorks® Columbus and its services, visit nwcolumbus.org or call 706-324-HOME (4663).

Maximum Impact: VIPs honored for Cottage No. 6

  
  
  

cottage volunteersThe Columbus Cottage Program is not something that just happens overnight—though with the help of some very driven individuals, senior citizens living in life-threatening conditions find themselves living in new homes.

In just one day, the 82-year-old Ms. Mary Alice Cooper Jenkins, recipient of NeighborWorks Columbus’ Cottage No. 6, will see her new home for the first time and officially, be home for Christmas.

Tuesday, NeighborWorks held a VIP Reception to honor some of the individuals who indeed made this cottage come together and to provide a sneak peek of the home.

Perhaps among the top of the list of VIPs were Jennifer and Frank Dunford, who donated the land for this project. Without them, this literally would not be possible, said Cathy Williams, President & CEO of NeighborWorks Columbus.

The Dunfords inherited the property when their father died. Ms. Mary had been renting the property from him for years before that, essentially just for the cost of property taxes and insurance.

 “I remember she called me when he died because she had seen his obituary in the paper,” recalls Jennifer, of her first encounter with Ms. Mary. “She was worried about what would happen with the house, and I told her, ‘You can live in that house ‘till you don’t want to anymore.”

Neither of the Dunfords had ever seen the property, until the first month Jennifer came to pick up Ms. Mary’s rent.

“When I came to this place the first time, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness,’” she said. “I would stay up at night worrying about her.”

Each month, Jennifer said she would keep the rent in a pouch and when something broke in the home, she would turn around and give it to Ms. Mary to have repaired.

One day, Jennifer decided to ask Ms. Mary how she could help her. “I told her this place was not safe for (her) and asked her to please tell me who her social worker was so I could help her find a safe place to live,” Jennifer said. “Ms. Mary wouldn’t tell me who she was. She said, ‘Please don’t put me out,’ which of course I never would have done.”

Jennifer didn’t give up on her quest to help Ms. Mary find a safe place to live, and one day, at a lady’s society meeting, Cathy Williams announced NeighborWorks was looking for the next cottage recipient.

Traditionally, those in the Columbus Cottage Program own their homes, but since the Dunfords were willing to sign over the land, they were able to make this a reality for Ms. Mary.

“I always said if I had won the lottery, I was going to put a mobile trailer on this property, let Ms. Mary live in it, tear this house down and put it back up,” she said. “Now I don’t have to worry about winning the lottery.”

“We couldn’t have dreamed of a better outcome for this project,” Frank said. “It’s actually perfect.”

Susan Milligan, co-chair of Cottage No. 6, had her first experience with the Cottage Program this year.

“Cathy lives across the street from me, and one day I had come home from the beach and she asked me to come over and told me she thought I knew this year’s cottage recipient,” Susan said.

In fact, Ms. Mary had worked as Susan’s housekeeper for 12 years, and Susan was glad to be a part of this project.

“I had given her furniture and different things over the years, and she would never let me go further than her front porch, so I never knew the conditions of her home,” she said. “We all think that the underprivileged in our community stick out like a sore thumb, but they don’t always stick out. As friends, family and neighbors, we need to look out for people in need.”

Monday was the first time Susan had seen the cottage completely finished, when she took students from Blanchard Elementary Student Council to shop for groceries at Piggly Wiggly, where her husband is the owner, to stock the cabinets of Ms. Mary’s new home.

“I was absolutely amazed at everything that has happened and to see it all completed was incredible,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of people’s hearts and the outpouring of the community (support).”

Support like that of Julia Hill, who heard about the Cottage Program on the news and just “couldn’t stand it.” She contacted NeighborWorks and went out and bought several pieces of furniture and home goods to donate to Ms. Mary’s new home.

Ms. Mary will receive the keys to her new home today, Dec. 19, at 10 a.m. The public is invited to the ceremony at 1518 43rd Street.  

NeighborWorks Cottage No. 6 Volunteers are 'Amazing'

  
  
  

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A little rain and cold weather had nothing on the volunteers who came out in droves to support the Columbus Cottage No. 6 Saturday morning.

Teams from the Fort Benning 3/11 Bravo OCS, Liberty Utilities, St. Anne/Pacelli School and East Columbus Magnet Academy, as well as other community volunteers, spent their Saturday morning at the site of NeighborWorks Columbus's Cottage No. 6 preparing the site for final landscape. And, it only took this dedicated group of workers a little more than 90 minutes to clear out land, plant flowers and clean furniture.

“(The volunteers) have gone above and beyond,” said Charmaine Crabb, volunteer coordinator and  member of the NeighborWorks Columbus Cottage Committee.

This was the first cottage build Charmaine has had the chance to be a part of, and she said she couldn't be more pleased with the experience.

“I am a realtor for ReMax, and I'm always looking for community service opportunities. I wanted to do things that are part of what my job is, and this seems to fit really well,” said Charmaine, who joined the committee in response to a Facebook post looking for volunteers. “I couldn't even walk in that house. It was awful. To see this now just makes you want to cry. It's amazing.”

The Columbus Cottage Campaign is a program designed to assist elderly homeowners in the community whose living conditions put them at risk and who do not have the means to make renovations on their own. The cottage is built on their current properties, so they can spend the rest of their lives living in the neighborhoods they have chosen to reside in. The recipient of this cottage is Ms. Mary Alice Cooper Jenkins, 82.

“She's so humble. She wouldn't have expected anyone to do this for her,” Charmaine said.

Yet, thanks in part to the effort of Saturday's volunteers, it is likely Ms. Mary will be in her new home just in time for Christmas.

Over 40 of the volunteers were with the 3/11 Bravo OCS, first time volunteers with NeighborWorks.

“We really do look for anything that gets us involved,” said President of the 3/11 Bravo OCS Student Council, who coordinated the effort all while doing land navigation. “And it's really cool to see 40 of us out here.”

“It's really easy for us to get our hands dirty,” added Brendon Grabowski, vice president of student council.

Mollie Birch, originally from Hawaii and also with OCS, said she was having a blast, as she was heaving debris into a dumpster. “It's a great project. The weather's clearing up, and it's a great feeling to help someone out this time of year.”

This was not Liberty Utilities first time working with the Cottage Program. The group, whose own Andy Ross is a member of the Cottage Committee, has been assisting with the program for about three years, said Joel Ames.

Liberty Utilities also helps with donating natural gas appliances to the cottages when it is able.

“This is one of those cool projects where you can see instant results and feel like you are here for the right reasons,” Joel said.

Though the company has been assisting with cottages for years, some employees were first time volunteers.

One of those, Pam Collins, said she was excited about the opportunity to volunteer for this project.

“It's a good project, and I'm excited for (Ms. Mary) to see it when it's completed,” Pam said.

Daniel Mansfield, a ninth grader at Pacelli, was the only one who didn't let the rain stop his volunteer efforts.

“I know how hard it is to fix up your house,” he said.

Cynthia Walker, chair of the NeighborWorks Cottage Committee  has been involved with the program since its start. Her love for senior citizens is one of the passions that keeps driving her in this effort. Cynthia said she was extremely impressed with the group of Saturday's volunteers.

“These volunteers came to do something, and they just get it done,” she said. ­

Meridith Jarrell: A Steady Force for NeighborWorks Columbus

  
  
  

inside neighborworks, affordable housing in Columbus, foreclosure prevention, downpayment assistance, Columbus Cottage Program, neighborworks board, achieving results, strategic visionMeridith Jarrell has been a part of NeighborWorks Columbus from the very beginning.

In fact, Meridith started working with the nonprofit when it was still known as the Columbus Housing Initiative, before officially joining forces with NeighborWorks America.

Her partnership with the organization began while she was the president of Universal Bank and she continues to serve on the Board of Directors. She represents the Beallwood Area Neighborhood Development (B.A.N.D.) on the board.

"When we joined NeighborWorks that was sort of a big turning point for our organization, and it gave us a whole new tool box with which to work," she said, citing that as the biggest change she's witnessed in the organization through the years. "Ultimately, it's grown."

That growth has led the organization to offer a variety of services, from foreclosure prevention to down payment assistance, credit counseling and the Columbus Cottage Program.

Meridith said she only foresees future growth and changes as the organization continues to evolve—but not all at once.

"If you look at our neighborhoods, we still have a lot of work to do," she said. "(The problem with substandard housing) is it's sort of like job security. It's guaranteed to be there. It's an evolution, not a revolution. It's not going to happen overnight; it's going to take us a while to make a big difference, but that's OK."

While Meridith has been a part of much of the growth in NeighborWorks, she said something that's key to the nonprofit’s successes is its commitment to the mission.

"The mission and purpose of NeighborWorks really has not changed, nor should it," she said.

It's dedication like that of the President & CEO Cathy Williams, whose passion is a driving force to the organization's mission, Meridith said.

Though it’s apparent that the committed volunteer Meridith certainly has some passion of her own.

"I just think that poor housing is a weak link in our community, and I think our children are not going to improve in education until the housing improves. It's a circle, and I think we've got to start somewhere, and that's something positive for our area."

Meridith, originally from Waycross, Georgia, moved to Columbus when she first took her job at the bank. Prior to that, she lived in Atlanta, where she attended the Georgia Institute of Technology and then resided in South Florida.

She has family ties to this area, with her mother in Pine Mountain and one of her twin sisters in LaGrange.

Meridith is also the Chairman of the Columbus Library Board and treasurer for Girl Scouts, an organization she has remained involved in ever since she was a Girl Scout herself.

She is now retired from banking and lives here with her husband, three cats and a dog. 

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