CHICAGO - A great-grandmother who lost her husband and her home within a few years won a free, remodeled home on Friday, thanks to the Cook County Land Bank Authority.
Elaine Lee, 66, was overwhelmed with emotion as she entered her new home in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood. Lee lost her husband in 2004 and then her home in 2007. She had been living with family ever since.
"She deserved this so much," said Lee's sister, Raymellia Ellis. "I'm glad that you guys gave it to her. Thank you."
The CCLBA, which is a governing agency that acquires distressed real-estate, handed Lee the keys to her 1,900 square foot home on Friday morning. Over 3,000 people applied for the home giveaway.
"This is a great boon to this neighborhood because this house, formerly abandoned, is now fixed up and will be occupied, and it's also, needless to say, a blessing to the family," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
"We know that we wanted to encourage people and inspire them for home ownership, so the home giveaway for the holidays would do just the trick," said Robert Rose, executive director of the CCLBA.
The CCLBA was started six years ago as a remedy to the foreclosure process.
"We made a goal four years ago to take 200 homes that were vacant and make them occupied, and we reached that goal last month, so this is a celebration of the fact that we hit that goal," said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Grainer (10th District).
Lee said she hopes to someday be able to pay her blessing forward.
"My thought is hopefully I do something to pass it along, because this is so nice," said Lee.
This was the first free home given away by the CCLBA. They hope to get some sponsorship in the near future, so next year they can give two homes away.