With a little help, woman finds her spot in Bel Air State grant enables her to buy a condominium

Dream Home

June 09, 1996|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

There is no marble foyer in Cindy Kolchin's dream home. No Jacuzzi tub or enclosed garden. No gourmet kitchen or grand design.

Her dream is a simple, sparsely furnished, two-bedroom condominium at Hickory Village in Bel Air.

However, that would not have been possible for Kolchin, who is mentally retarded, without a grant from the state Community Development Administration (CDA) and help from the Arc of Harford County, local businesses and her family.

Because Kolchin receives government assistance through Supplemental Security Income (SSI), she would not have been allowed to accumulate enough money in savings for a down payment without incurring a severe financial penalty. This is one reason many mentally retarded adults must live in group homes or rent for their entire lives.

Last year, the CDA set aside funding for down payments and closing costs to help people with disabilities and low incomes. Kolchin, 39, was chosen to receive some of this money because she has a steady job as a crew member at a McDonald's and wanted to become a homeowner.

Yolanda Parker, a residential support counselor with Arc of Harford County, has been assigned to Kolchin since 1991 to help her with community integration; Parker guided her through the 12-month house-hunt. Together, they toured 11 condominiums, collected brochures and kept their eyes open for the bright balloons signaling open houses. "In and out. Up and down," Kolchin recalls.

When they found the condominium at Hickory Village, she knew it was her dream home.

The bedroom is her favorite place: It features a spectacular view of the community pool, where she swims each day in the summer and can watch the bustling neighborhood activities. Her other favorite spot -- the balcony -- overlooks the main thoroughfare, making it easy to spot the Arc van that transports her to and from work. On sunny afternoons, sipping iced tea and listening to country music, she writes letters to friends and family.

She's within walking distance of some of her friends and the library. Her parents live in nearby Aberdeen.

Although Kolchin says she misses her roommates, "I like being alone so I can pray hard for sunny weather."

For those not-so-sunny joys of homeownership, such as when the furnace broke during the Blizzard of '96, Yolanda is there each day for a few hours to help.

"She takes care of most it. She pays the bills -- writes the checks, adds the numbers and puts them in the mail. I just remind her," Parker says. "Cindy is a compulsive cleaner. She takes out the trash each day [on her way to work] and does at least one load of laundry every day."

Kolchin had already demonstrated to Arc that she would be a responsible homeowner, so they quickly orchestrated assistance from the community. A number of real estate professionals waived their commissions, including Joan Ryder of Joan Ryder & Associates (now Century 21 Joan Ryder) and Werner Ferrone of the same firm. Vince Iliceto of Alexander & Associates donated some of his commission. Madison Square Federal Savings Bank helped Kolchin secure a 30-year mortgage.

Stephen Billings of Construction Services Inc. waived his home inspection fee. And at settlement, David Thurston and Amy Weibler of Crown Title donated their time and waived their fees to do the title work.

Because of their generosity, today Kolchin is a proud homeowner. Surveying her living room from her secondhand couch that once had "dust bunnies," she beams, "It's a winner."

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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