EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Myra Williams wiped a tear from her eye, realizing she was about to be handed the keys to her first home.
Williams, a 36-year-old U.S. Navy veteran and registered nurse, became a first-time homeowner Monday, thanks to a partnership between nonprofit St. Bernard Project New Jersey and JPMorgan & Co.
“This is not a gift,” said Kevin McGee, St. Bernard Project, executive director. “You have earned this through your service to our country.”
Williams, along with her husband, Cory, and 7-year-old daughter Corynn, walked through the renovated two-story, three-bedroom home on Fernwood Avenue, which they will soon move in to.
She said the whole experience was surreal.
“I’m signed up with the affordable housing alliance. They sent me an email regarding this home,” she said.
Williams’ family was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Neptune City.
She explained that growing up, she lived with her grandmother and several family members, often sharing rooms.
“I thought, let me just try it. I did all the paperwork, I met the qualifications, but I still thought, ‘Oh, well, it’s not going to happen.’ But my daughter kept telling me, ‘You never know’ and not to give up,” Williams said.
The Williams family was chosen from several applicants based on specific criteria set by St. Bernard Project, including confirmed military service, first-time home buyer status and financial eligibility.
Williams served in the U.S. Navy for four years, attaining the rank of Aviation Ordnance Airman. She was honorably discharged in 2008, then went back to school to become a nurse.
After being selected, Williams said she and her daughter were able to come to the project home during the renovations, joining with the volunteers painting rooms and clearing the yard. One room, which was painted a vibrant magenta, will be Corynn’s.
“It’s like we also helped out to bring this home together,” Williams said. “This is really a blessing for my daughter — to have her own room and a yard.”
In 2011, JPMorgan created a program with the goal to give 1,000 mortgage-free homes to military and veteran families, said Michael Cherny, regional managing director.
“What we’re excited about today specifically, is the partnership with the St Bernard Project and giving this house to Ms. Williams and her family,” Cherny said.
“Today was the best day of my life,” Williams said.