Photo Release -- HELP Grant Pays for Closing Costs for First-Time Homebuyer

MAYFLOWER, Ark., July 8, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Skipper Pennington, 55, a life-long renter, wanted to buy a house in the country before he retired. He thought he would never be able to accomplish this, but then he heard about a rural development loan offered by First Financial Bank that only requires a small down payment. As a maintenance supervisor for a local college, Mr. Pennington had a steady income and enough to pay his rent and expenses, but never had money left at the end of the month to save for a down payment.

A photo accompanying this release is available at

The First Financial Bank loan officer said Mr. Pennington was a great candidate for the Homebuyer Equity Leverage Partnership (HELP) grant program, which could pay for his closing costs, and combined with the loan, he would only need $500 for the down payment.

HELP is offered by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) through its member financial institutions like First Financial Bank, to provide grants to assist income-qualified, first-time homebuyers with down payments and closing costs on newly constructed or existing homes.

Mr. Pennington was able to purchase a house on one acre of land just outside Mayflower, Arkansas, with the closing costs paid by a $3,273 HELP grant from FHLB Dallas and First Financial Bank.

"The house was a foreclosure and had recently been remodeled, so all it needed was new paint on a few of the walls," said Mr. Pennington. "The house looked great, but the orange walls reminded me of the logo of the University of Texas. As a University of Central Arkansas fan, I just couldn't live with that color."

First Financial Bank has utilized HELP since 2009, and has provided more than $326,000 in HELP grants to assist 66 families with down payments and/or closing costs.

Sherri Holden, branch manager for First Financial Bank in Fort Smith, Arkansas, said, "I have worked with the HELP program for many years. I encourage everyone who fits within the HELP guidelines to apply, as HELP can make a difference in being able to qualify for a loan. I have seen several customers with tears of joy when I told them they qualified for a grant. It is the most rewarding part of being a community banker."

The 965- square-foot house is perfect for Mr. Pennington, and he loves living in the country.

"I am so happy to have all this land," he said. "I am going to raise some dairy goats and let them graze. It's cheaper than buying gas for a mower. I may even build a garden too. I could not have bought this house without the HELP grant."

Since HELP's inception in 2002, more than $14 million has been awarded through members to assist more than 2,700 families. In 2014, FHLB Dallas made available $1 million in HELP grants through its members. Please visit for more information on HELP and other FHLB Dallas grant programs.

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 $30.6 billion as of March 31, 2014, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 900 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. For more information, visit the FHLB Dallas website at

The photo is also available via AP PhotoExpress.

Pennington House

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