Military vet receives mortgage-free home in Dearborn

Maria Hechabarria looks forward to not adding another 50,000 miles to her Buick Rendezvous in less than two years.

The single mother commutes from Toledo, where she lives with her two children, to her job at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. The military veteran also has to remain in the state while completing training over a weekend each month.

Now that she’s receiving a mortgage-free home in Dearborn, the 35-year-old is overjoyed about how it helps her children.

“We can have a family day where I don’t have to come from out of town,” she said. “We can all come home, have dinner together, have family time together, go to sleep together, get up, go to work and go to school at the same time. They’re not used to that. Since I’ve been traveling a lot, they don’t see me as often. So the family togetherness I would I say is what I’m looking forward to.”

On Veterans Day, Hechabarria walked through the 1,137-square-foot, three-bedroom home awarded through the nonprofit National Faith HomeBuyers partnering with the Wayne County Department of Health, Veterans and Community Wellness’ Veteran Services Division and the Detroit Pistons Hoops for Troops presented by Applebee’s, officials said.

Contributed by Chase bank, the house on Chicago Street has been renovated through a partnership with the Detroit-based National Faith HomeBuyers, the county veteran services division and volunteers, coordinators said.

This donation, announced during a recent Detroit Pistons game at The Palace of Auburn Hills, is part of National Faith’s program offering area military veterans a path to sustainable home ownership. The Wayne County Veterans Services Division provided candidates for the giveaway; National Faith HomeBuyers made the final selection.

“Veterans make significant sacrifices to uphold our country’s freedom; and through our Veterans Services Division we are able to provide resources and opportunities that show our appreciation for their dedication to service,” Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said in a statement. “Thanks to the contributions of these generous partners, we are changing lives for the better, not just for members of our armed services and their families, but for the generations that follow.”

To be eligible for the mortgage-free home, recipients must be an honorably discharged, active or inactive veteran; a parent with children; a first-time home owner; and have proof of ability to pay for home upkeep, coordinators said. The aim of the effort is “to give back to our veterans who give so much to our country,” said Keisha Sanders-Hajdu, CEO at National Faith HomeBuyers. “There are some families that are truly deserving.”

The home is a haven for Hechabarria, who estimates she has moved five or six times, including to Mississippi and Texas, between serving in the reserves and National Guard.

Inspired to join the military by her late father, a Cuban refugee and Army veteran, she started working at Selfridge in 2013. Hechabarria remained in Toledo, where she had had a civilian job. She sometimes stayed overnight with relatives in Metro Detroit but mostly stuck to the long commute — about 90 miles each way — her previous car couldn’t survive.

Hechabarria doesn’t plan to move in immediately but intends to prepare it once the school year ends for her teen sons, Cesar and Robert, “so when they come all they have to do is keep doing what they’re doing: learning and striving,” she said.

The gift is “a big blessing for my kids so they don’t have to worry about getting up and moving all the time with me,” Hechabarria said. “It’s the most incredible thing I ever experienced. It’s magnificent. I’m very impressed. I didn’t know that something was out there like that. I just do my job and deal with the situation. It really changed a lot. I’m truly grateful there’s something out there for us.”