Carolyn Cooper nearly dances across the front yard of the new house on Nelson Avenue in downtown Lexington. A few more days, and it will be hers.
Cooper, a Fayette County school bus driver, is the 500th first-time Lexington home buyer for the housing organization called REACH, or Resources Education Assistance for Community Housing.
It is a milestone for REACH and for Cooper, who had vowed to buy a house by the time she was 50.
REACH is helping her achieve that goal.
The private non-profit organization offers programs to help low- to moderate-income families and individuals become first-time homeowners.
REACH's financial help to home buyers with down payments and closing costs comes via the federal government, which gives money to various groups across the country. Each non-profit tailors its own home buyer education process.
Once REACH clients have their credit in shape and have been educated about the home-buying process, they are qualified in advance by a lender and may start shopping for a house.
REACH closed on its first home purchase in Fayette County in 1995.
Cooper began working with REACH in July 2009.
"The home buyers' courses they have are wonderful," Cooper said. The classes include information on home inspection and getting a loan.
Cooper is buying a taupe, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house for $115,000 near William Wells Brown Elementary School.
The big back yard, which already has privacy fencing, was a particular selling point for Cooper. She has seven grandchildren.
Many of her boxes are packed, and she is ready to move — and she wants others to know that they, too, can buy homes of their own.
"If you stick with it, you can get here," Cooper said.
Lexington Vice Mayor Linda Gorton said REACH's recent milestone could be viewed another way: "Five hundred wins is what I call it," she said at a news conference Tuesday celebrating REACH's news.
"You know the excitement of putting that key in the front door and saying, 'This is mine, I own this,'" Gorton said.
Chris Ford, president and chief executive of REACH and an Urban County councilman, said, "The American dream of home ownership is still alive, and it's a dream that we at REACH dream of pursuing each and every day."
Tina Burns, REACH vice president and program manager, has been in direct contact with 400 of the 500 home buyers served in Fayette County during the past 12 years.
"The true credit," she said, "goes to all the clients who dedicated themselves to becoming homeowners, and we appreciated working with each one of them."