HELP Grant Lives Up to Its Name for One Katrina Survivor

May 14, 2015, 10:52 ET from Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas

GREENWOOD, Miss., May 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Brenda Gray, 54, moved to Mississippi to start a business, and six months later her life was upended by Hurricane Katrina. After living in tents with her boyfriend, they decided to move to his hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi. 

Ms.Gray, now unable to work due to a debilitating disease, was renting a "shotgun" house in Greenwood's Baptist Town. "The house had horrible mold on the walls," said Ms. Gray. "The glass in the windows was really thin, so I was freezing in the winter and burning up in the summer. Then I heard about the new Baptist Town Cottages on the news. I met Emily Roush Elliott and put in an application to purchase one of the homes. I stuck with it, and mine was the first application approved."

Emily Roush Elliott, a Rose Architectural Fellow and the project manager for Baptist Town Cottages, said Ms. Gray's story is one of coming home.

"She is finding her way back to something. She lived in Biloxi when Hurricane Katrina hit, and she was displaced from her home," Ms. Roush Elliott said. "The Baptist Town Cottages were designed for people in her situation, and despite many years and many miles traveled, she now owns a home designed to be a dignified place to live, affordable for her family, and resilient in the face of disaster."

The Rose Architectural Fellowship from Enterprise Community Partners, according to the Enterprise website, pairs "early-career architects," like Ms. Roush Elliott, with local community development organizations for three-year fellowships, during which they facilitate "an inclusive approach to development that brings all stakeholders together to create green, sustainable, affordable communities."  Ms. Roush Elliott is hosted by the Greenwood-Leflore Economic Development Foundation and Mississippi State University's Carl Small Town Center during her three-year tenure on the redevelopment of the Baptist Town community.

Ms. Roush Elliott taught a homeownership class, where Ms. Gray learned about the home-buying process and the Homebuyer Equity Leverage Partnership (HELP) grant offered by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) through its member financial institutions. The program provides grants to assist income-qualified, first-time homebuyers with down payments and closing costs on newly constructed or existing homes.

FHLB Dallas and Planters Bank & Trust Company awarded Ms. Gray a $4,000 HELP grant that was applied toward her down payment. Eric Miller, first vice president at Planters Bank & Trust Company said the HELP grant program is a valuable asset. "With funds from the HELP grant, we are able to assist deserving individuals with down payments toward their first homes," Mr. Miller said.

Greg Hettrick, vice president and director of Community Investment at FHLB Dallas, said that HELP is a needed program in the Bank's District of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas.

"FHLB Dallas is committed to providing resources to help individuals and families become homeowners. We have found that, while first-time, income-qualified homebuyers may qualify for the monthly payments, they often require financial assistance with getting into their homes. That's where HELP is able to make a difference, and turn renters into homeowners."

Ms. Elliott said, "Without the HELP grants from FHLB Dallas, homeownership would not be attainable for these residents." 

Ms. Gray said it would have been a struggle without the HELP grant to save enough for her down payment.

"I wanted something of my own, and now I am glad I am anchored in Greenwood," she said.

Just as it did in 2014, FHLB Dallas made $1 million available in 2015 for the HELP program on a first-come, first-served basis. As of May 8, 2015, FHLB Dallas had committed $653,837 in HELP grants across its five-state District. To date in 2015, Planters Bank & Trust Company has awarded $36,000 in HELP grants to assist income-qualified, first-time homebuyers.

About Planters Bank & Trust Company
Planters Bank & Trust Company was founded in 1920 in Ruleville, Mississippi. It now has $793 million in total assets and serves the Mississippi Delta in nine communities.

About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 12 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $36.9 billion as of March 31, 2015, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 865 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. For more information, visit

Corporate Communications
Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
(214) 441-8445

Photo -
Logo -


SOURCE Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas