By MELISSA FLANAGAN
South Bend Tribune
4:56 PM EST, November 17, 2012
Active duty military member Chris Mola and his wife, Maria, completed their move from Hawaii to South Bend recently with a community ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the closing of their new home.
Three days before, the official closing of their house marked the first of the South Bend affiliate of Homes for Heroes, a national organization that provides rebates and discounts for local heroes who are buying or selling a home.
"Not only did they set us up with an amazing Realtor ... but it also provided us with that extra money," Maria Mola said. "The rebate we got back from Homes for Heroes has helped us with home improvement things that we would have had to push off for a while."
The closing was the realization of months of effort from the Tim McKinnies real estate team, which includes Realtors Jim McKinnies and his uncle, Tim McKinnies. The team recently began promoting the Homes for Heroes program in the South Bend area.
The McKinnies team began working with the Molas while the couple was preparing to move from Hawaii.
"We met Chris' mom and brother and we looked at homes," Jim McKinnies said. "They picked out one they really liked and sent photos to Chris and Maria, and they bought it without seeing it. Once they got here they loved it."
Maria Mola first heard of Homes for Heroes through a short article in the Army Times while her husband was still stationed in Hawaii, she said. After learning it was offered in the South Bend area, she immediately applied.
"It's an amazing program," she said. "I don't understand why more people aren't talking about it and using it, especially since there's such a wide variety of people who are qualified to use it."
Since its start in South Bend, Homes for Heroes has partnered with several other businesses involved in real estate in order to offer heroes additional savings, including a lender, two title companies and a home inspection company.
McKinnies said the Molas utilized these connections and were able to receive discounts and rebates totaling about $1,400. As a result, the pair decided to donate the $600 rebate they received from Weichert Realtors to the Wounded Warrior Project.
"My husband has been to Iraq on deployment twice," Maria Mola said. "We know so many people the Wounded Warrior program has helped. It was a no-brainer to go with a program that does so much good for so many people.'
The October ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at Mishawaka Fire Department, McKinnies said, and many prominent community members attended the ceremony. Mishawa ka Mayor Dave Wood spoke, as well as several council members who explained the benefits of the program.
"I was taken aback by the outpouring of support for the program," Jim McKinnies said. "From the initial story (in the Tribune), so many other businesses and people have gotten onboard."
Maria Mola said the decision to hold the ceremony at a firehouse will hopefully spread word of the program.
"All the people there qualified for the program, and I don't believe the program has gotten enough press, not only here but also nationwide," she said. "All the firefighters that were there can continue to go out and tell people, 'Oh, you're a teacher, you're a firefighter, don't forget to look into this program."
Homes for Heroes is currently assisting several new heroes in selling and buying houses, Jim McKinnies said, including two nurses and a youth leader.
Any qualified heroes should visit the national website at www.homesforheroes.com to learn more about the program.
Staff writer Melissa Flanagan:
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