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MassMutual offers grants to help with 'curb appeal'

Date: 7/21/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- In what was described as a "very, very important collaboration," MassMutual will be making a grant of $150,000 over the three years to be used by homeowners in the State Street corridor to add "curb appeal" to their properties.

Administered by Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services (SNHS), qualified homeowners in parts of Maple-High Six Corners, Old Hill, Upper Hill, Hill McKnight and Pine Point could receive a grant up to $5,000 for home improvements that range from landscaping, roofing siding, painting to lighting and the improvement of porches and entry doors.

Nick Fyntrilakis, MassMutual assistant vice president for community responsibility, said the financial giant, as part of the State Street Alliance, has been active in the on-going improvements to the thoroughfare. This new program builds on that activity by going to into the neighborhoods around State Street and helping homeowners, he explained.

"We're kicking [the program] off right way," Fyntrilakis said. "We hope we have a waiting list."

Adrienne Osborn, the president of the Upper Hill Neighborhood Council, said the program was "sorely needed" in the target area.

"This is a great opportunity in these hard economic times," she added.

Charles Rucks, executive director of SNHS, said the new program fits within the agency's mission to allow people to buy homes and keep them. The agency provides what Rucks called a "full cycle service delivery model." The services include targeted neighborhood revitalization, financial education, loans for home purchase and repair, foreclosure intervention and reverse mortgage counseling.

MassMutual has had a long history of support the agency, Rucks explained. While some of that support in the past went to operating expenses, now MassMutual helps fund programs that help finds solutions to problems, he said.

Currently MassMutual has a program that will pay an employee who moves into one of the targets neighborhoods in Springfield a $10,000 forgivable loan. That money can be matched by state funds through a program offered by SNHS.

The genesis of this new program, Rucks said, came out of discussions with Fyntrilakis. The additional benefit of the $150,000 grant is that is has helped SHNS secure an additional $600,000 in funding for home ownership in the city.

To be eligible for a curb appeal grant, applicants must meet established income guidelines, which is 110 percent of the median income for residents of Western Massachusetts. The homeowner must reside in the property and must agree to main the improvements for at least five years.

For more information, call SNHS at 739-4737.