Community, Here to Help, Springfield

Morgan family raises the roof

■ Nonprofit First Story will give the Morgan family a zero-down, zero-interest mortgage on a brand-new Hayden Home in Springfield’s Woodland Ridge community this October.

SPRINGFIELD – Marie, 25, and Kees, 26, Morgan, along with their now-6-week-old baby boy Everett, got their first taste of homeownership thanks to First Story: a nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable homeownership opportunities to under-resourced families to break cycles of generational poverty.

Marie is a resource coordinator at Douglas Gardens Elementary School, and her job requires her to connect families at the school with nonprofits and different organizations in the area. When First Story reached out to the district, Marie thought, “Hey, I think our family qualifies for this, too,” so the Morgans filled out the application, and Claire Duncan, First Story director, quickly reached out to get the ball rolling.

Kees (left) and Marie Morgan, along with their baby boy Everett, will become homeowners this fall thanks to First Story, a nonprofit founded by Hayden Homes to support community members in need and provide solutions to the affordable housing crisis.

On May 22, First Story, Hayden Homes, and other community partners “raised the wall” on the Morgans’ new home in the Woodland Ridge community. This “Wall Raising” is the pivotal part of the construction process where the walls of the home are brought upward and secured into place.

“We’re very, very lucky. We’re the luckiest people in the world right now,” Marie said. “This is a dream. I think I’m going to wake up tomorrow.”

Hayden Homes project manager Craig Warren said the Morgans’ “Wall Raising” was more touching than other ones he’s attended because the Morgans’ house is in the community he’s building, so he had more of a hands-on experience on this project.

Warren is one of many employees who donate a portion of their paychecks each month to First Story as a way to ensure these homes will continue being built. He said he does this because the impact First Story has on deserving families and the local community is “super impactful” and “almost overwhelming at times.”

“I truly enjoy my job. It’s funny because it irritates my wife all the time that I love my job so much, and I can’t wait to get out of bed and get to work,” Warren said. “It’s the camaraderie that you build with the crew members out here, our trade partners, and also within the community as well. It doesn’t even really feel like I have a job. I get up and go have fun every day.”

The Morgan’s home will be completed by mid-October, which is when a home dedication and key ceremony will take place.

“It’s one thing to see it here and raise the walls,” Duncan said. “It’s another thing to walk through the front door for the first time and be like, ‘Wow, this is ours,’ and for our family, this is the first time we can paint walls and choose colors or maybe have a cat or a dog. It’s all these firsts that you don’t have if you don’t ever own a home.”

This “Wall Raising” celebrated the Morgans’ unique zero-down, zero-interest, 30-year mortgage on a new, move-in ready Hayden Homes model.

“Each year, we bring together employees from our founder Hayden Homes and our community partners here in Springfield in the greater Lane County area for a team build day and ‘Wall Raising’ to celebrate our mission to bridge the gap to affordable homeownership, but also to recognize all the families whose lives we’ve changed in our 25 year history, which is 117 and counting, and then also to welcome the new homeowners home,” Duncan said.

Those 117 families who have moved into First Story homes are located in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. When this fall rolls around, the Morgans will be one of six families that First Story will be welcoming home in 2024.

“It’s just an unbelievable experience,” Kees said. “It’s hard to put into words how you feel seeing all these people come together and support you. We just feel cared for by all of them. They’re all very helpful, and they all want to speak to us and meet the baby. It’s really just hard to put into words how much it means to us that they do this.”


Duncan noted that seeing the house walls come up during the “Wall Raising” is one of the best parts of her job.

“You sometimes forget what a home can mean to a family until you really get to see and hear from them, from a family that maybe thought owning a home was never going to be an option for them,” Duncan said. “With rising house costs since the pandemic, and now rising interest rates, many families have lost hope of raising their kids in the community where they were themselves born and raised.

“To be part of that opportunity for this family, and to know that it’s not just going to change Marie and Kees’ life, but it’s going to change little Everett’s life, and all of that change is going to happen for generations and generations to come because homeownership is one of the few things that does that. It’s a catalyst to change these cycles and put folks on a different path that’s much more successful.”

Marie said it feels like her family “won the lottery.”

“We never really thought we could own a home, let alone a new home, let alone a home that’s been so generously gifted to us,” Marie said. “Being a young family and first time homebuyers, and with the market the way it is right now, this is unbelievable. This is changing our family’s life, changing our son’s life.”



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