Affinity Plus surpasses $175,000 in special home-ownership grants to assist members with down payment, closing costs

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Aug. 22, 2017) – Michael McLean admitted he hadn’t read the mortgage document Amanda Bruggman had placed in front of him.

Or, he hadn’t read to the part where it explained the document was gibberish and was a ruse to get him to Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union’s Duluth, Minn., branch.

If McLean had read it, he might have suspected what was about to happen: Branch Manager Amanda Bruggman was about to surprise him with a $5,000 grant to help with closing costs on the small Duluth home McLean had purchased for his family.

The grant McLean received was one of 35 $5,000 homebuyer grants Affinity Plus has awarded so far in 2017 as part of the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Homeownership Fund, according to Nicole Haverly, Affinity Plus Investor Relations senior manager.

FHLB financial institutions, including Affinity Plus, apply for the grant money by identifying members who qualify for down-payment and closing-cost assistance. The selection is based on income guidelines and – just as importantly, Haverly said – input and recommendations from community branch leaders.

“Affinity Plus is all about relationships with members, and these grants are a great example of what can happen when we know our members, understand their goals and dreams, and then tap into resources out there for them,” she said.

While members don’t directly apply for the grants, Haverly said they still encourage current and potential members to stop by any Affinity Plus branch or call the credit union to learn more about the FHLB Homeownership Fund program.

Affinity Plus passed the $175,000 mark in grant funding in August, Haverly said, which is a milestone because it represents a more than three-fold increase in the number of grants the credit union has awarded since it began participating in the program in 2015.

The credit union has new grant applications underway, and anticipates it will reach $200,000 in grants to members by year’s end. Haverly said the FHLB program – coordinated in each of 11 regions nationwide -- has strong participation and support among participating lenders, so she anticipates it will continue in 2018.

McLean, who has lived in Duluth since 2005, said he was looking for a “nice little house with a fenced-in back yard. Modest, nothing fancy, a house I could put a little work into, and room for the dog to run around.” He also was pleased to be able to find a house in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, which is near his employer and is a growing, revitalizing area.

Through the years McLean had worked as a bartender, which meant “unconventional employment, always consistent but not always in one place,” he said. “I’d never attempted to make a big purchase like this before.”

Bruggman helped McLean gather all his income records and complete the mortgage application. He’d purchased a vehicle through Affinity Plus and that was “a really good experience, must more friendly and more helpful than other banks. Everyone at Affinity Plus is very genuine.”

The grant was a unexpected surprise, he said, and it helped him “make the house a home. It needed a refrigerator, a stove and a few other basic things like a bed to make a guest room.”

Bruggman said she and her Duluth staff love surprising recipients with the Homeownership Fund grants. With McLean, however, the most-touching moment came after she presented it to him. McLean exited her office, but then paused in the lobby with his back turned to her.

“I noticed he was just standing at a desk we have for members in the middle of the branch. I went out and asked if we had forgotten something,” she said. “He had tears in his eyes and said he was so excited he had to text his family to tell them what had just happened.”

Smiles returned on closing day. When McLean came to the branch to complete the (legitimate) documents, “we gave him a Home Depot card, along with a can of WD40 and duct tape,” Bruggman said. “Because, seriously, what else do you need for home improvements?”

To learn about the FHLB Homeownership grant, please contact Haverly at (800) 322-7228 or

Michael McLean of Duluth, Minn., an Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union member, receives a $5,000 check earlier this year from Amanda Bruggman, Duluth branch manager. Affinity Plus has awarded 35 homebuyer grants so far in 2017 as part of the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Homeownership Fund.