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Operation Homefront brings ‘American dream’ to Army vet in Fort Mill

Tamekia Sanders walked into a townhome in Fort Mill’s Baxter Village Monday, holding back tears as she took in the living room, kitchen, porch and two more floors of bedrooms.

To Army Private First Class Sanders, the house is more than a roof over her family’s head, its a place where she can build a permanent home with her son and daughter.

“This is going to do so much for us,” Sanders said. “I am blown away, overwhelmed, so thankful, so grateful and ready to move in.”

Sanders’ new space is thanks to Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that puts veterans in mortgage-free homes. The program is open to honorably discharged or retired veterans and to eligible surviving spouses of service members killed in action.

Sanders served three years in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Georgia. She will move from Rock Hill into her new home Thursday.

“Home ownership is the American dream and today (Sanders) is going to get keys to her home,” said Maurjon Alston, Operation Homefront housing caseworker. “This home allows her to stay close to her support system, which is her family.”

Veterans must apply for the program and successfully meet with a housing caseworker and financial counselors for the first two years of living in the home before being awarded the deed mortgage-free, according to Operation Homefront. Since 2012, the program has awarded more than 550 mortgage-free homes to families across the U.S.

Recipients are responsible for costs such as property taxes, insurance, homeowner’s association fees and warranty-related costs, according to the organization.

“It’s an amazing program to allow military veterans the opportunity of home ownership,” Alston said. It “gives them the stability and roots that some may not have had in the past.”

Operation Homefront partnered with JPMorgan Chase and Company to provide Sanders with the home. JPMorgan Chase’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs provides mortgage-free homes, career training and jobs to veterans, according to the company.

“One of the things we care about so much as a company is to be able to give back to the local communities that we serve,” said Christian Robinson with JPMorgan’s Charlotte office. “There is not a better testament than our military families and our veterans.”

Since the program started in 2011, JPMorgan Chase has awarded more than 1,000 mortgage-free homes to veterans and hired more than 14,000 veterans, according to the company.

Both Sanders’ children, Ziona and Zaihei Sanders, picked out their rooms within minutes.

“It’s beautiful. It’s above my expectations. I love it,” Sanders said. “It’s something I can leave for my children. They’ll know they always have somewhere to come home.”

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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