Jennifer Lepka

jennifer lepkaGetting from just making ends meet to feeling confident in your finances might seem like an intimidating or even impossible journey - Jennifer is here to tell you, you can do it, you might just need some support. Here is Jennifer’s HomeStart story:

Easter 2019, my dad had called me and asked me if I would want to buy his house since he was moving. I knew that I had to act fast as I probably wouldn't have the time before he would decide to list the house and sell it if I couldn't get a loan or some kind of help. To me, I had no room to mess anything up and knew that I needed professional help fast, but knew I didn't have the financial means to spend a lot of money to help. I was looking for guidance to go about the right way in getting the loan without getting the no's. To me at that time the no's were not an option anymore. I wanted a yes as I had found the perfect house.

It wasn't until around May 2019 that I had started to work with Homestart. I didn't know what to expect or what I was getting into at that time, I wasn't sure what services I was looking for when I first started. All I knew is that I needed help getting a home mortgage. Melissa Radick and I must have discussed options for around 2 hours, as I was asking questions and options because I didn't want to run the risk of messing anything up. Over the next few months, she highly stressed that I try to get a credit card, contact the bills in collections, start a savings, and do anything I could to start getting on the right track to getting my desired result.

It wasn't until the end of August 2019, when I started a part time job to go along with my full time job that I started to see results. I was able to start a savings account immediately, putting a minimum of amount of money a month into the savings account, being held accountable for the money that I spend by having a monthly budget that I stick to as closely to as I can (even now I still follow a monthly budget). Around the beginning of the 2020 is when I was in the final stages of having all of my collections items cleaned up and being removed from my credit, and I saw my savings grow. As of now, May 2020, I have a little over $11,000 in savings, all collections is now off my reports, my student loans are now being managed properly.

I think that the problems that I had faced was of my own doing. I had to tear down the walls of self-doubt, asking if I could really get this done, and with a lot of encouragement and praise from Melissa kept me going forward and in the right direction. If I didn't have Melissa in my corner cheering me on, along with three out of my four children, I would not have made it this far.

As of right now I was pre-qualified for a USDA loan mid-April 2020, and as of the other day (5/520) I have gone through major paper signing for the home mortgage loans and am on my way to closing on the house of my dreams by the end of June 2020.

As far as my outcomes from this whole experience. I have to say WOW! I have learned so much about myself as a person. I have learned that when I put my mind to something and stay focused, that I can obtain my goal with hard work. Did I have my self-doubts, concerns, and think about quitting? I sure did! But then I dug my heals in, talked to Melissa, expressed my concerns, got over them, dug my heals in and KICKED BUTT!!!! I learned so much about my finances that it’s ok to save the money and NOT live paycheck to paycheck, that I don't have to spend every cent before I get my next check. I've learned a new and better way to budget my money, and even found ways to be able to save over my set budget goal.

I have found ways to even budget the occasional mishap like a car repair into the budget without having to dig into savings to pay for it. Does that make me feel good? Uh, YES! It makes me feel awesome! One important thing it has taught me is that it’s ok to be strong or even weak at times, have doubts, push through any struggle, to work things out, to ask for help. It has taught me how to stand up on my own, to do things the right way. But the most important thing is the journey that I went through over the last year has not only taught me all these life lessons, but more importantly has taught my three children who has been with me every step of the way.

For all that I am eternally grateful because I cannot put a price tag on the lessons I have learned. This whole experience with HomeStart has been wonderful, learning tons, and yes life changing. Without HomeStart, I would not be signing papers for my forever home.

Jennifer’s advice? “…set your goals and dreams, whether you write them down or keep them in your head (preferably both), and to never lose sight of them! Let them be your fire to keep you going!”

Creating choice in housing, community in neighborhoods, and empowerment in personal finance throughout northern Illinois.