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A Home that Was Meant to Be

This month marks one year since the passing of longtime community leader and legendary activist Aggie Brose. Aggie was instrumental in the development of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation and Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, fighting to improve neighborhoods and expand access to economic opportunities. As Board chair of NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania for many years, she promoted sustainable homeownership as a pathway for first-time homebuyers to build wealth. When Aggie’s family put her house on the market, little did they know the journey would involve NeighborWorks.

Kristi, a scientist and first-time homebuyer, first learned about Aggie when her real estate agent showed her the house in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where Aggie and her husband, Tommy, moved in 1993 after raising their three children in nearby Garfield. “The house was so cute and right where we wanted to be,” she noted. While touring the home, Kristi noticed a poster board highlighting Aggie’s lifetime of service. NeighborWorks America created it for a 2018 ceremony honoring Aggie as a Visionary Leader in Community Development.

“What a neat coincidence, like it was meant to be,” said Kristi, who used the NeighborhoodLIFT program to access down-payment assistance. “As a first-time homebuyer, it’s really hard to get a down-payment together, so the LIFT program was really important,” explained Kristi. “I don’t think I could have bought a house without it.”

Kristi fulfilled the program’s homebuyer education requirement by completing a workshop organized by NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania in November 2019. She appreciated that the course covered the entire purchase process from start to finish. “I knew I wanted to get there, but didn’t know how,” she explained.

Kristi and her boyfriend moved into the house in February 2020, after living in an apartment in Highland Park, which they found cramped for two people and two cats. They enjoy their house and the quiet neighborhood, with easy access to public transit, off-street parking, and proximity to Lawrenceville and its amenities.

“I love the house, it’s not too big, not too small,” Kristi said. “It’s really perfect for us.” She likes having three bedrooms, one dedicated to her knitting hobby, and the larger kitchen. “We can both be in the kitchen at the same time,” she exclaimed. Their cats, Callo and Lapis, enjoy their new home, too, running and up down the stairs, and sliding across refinished hardwood floors.

Aggie’s granddaughter Lauren Byrne Connelly has many fond memories of the house, the scene of family holidays, birthdays, and Friday-night pizza dinners. “Her garage was equipped with lots of toys and activities,” she said.

Lauren, who carries on Aggie’s legacy of community development as executive director of the Lawrenceville Corporation, noted her grandparents loved the backyard, where they hosted many events, including her engagement party. “They had a big picnic table that was actually built there in the yard that we could all sit to eat, play, and put on talent shows,” she recalled.

According to Lauren, the grandchildren’s favorite outdoor event was an annual Easter egg hunt, in which Aggie would fill dozens of plastic eggs with coins and dollar bills. “Aggie had eight grandchildren and there were a few years where 20-year-olds were competing against her youngest grandchildren, the one-year-old twins,” said Lauren.

Inside her grandparent’s house, Lauren said that “any ledge that could hold a picture, held pictures of her family: her parents, her nieces, nephews, siblings, children, and grandchildren.”

Kristi met Aggie’s sister June and her daughters Jeannie and Junie at closing. “It was really sweet,” she noted. “They wanted to say ‘hi’ and meet me,” explained Kristi, who had written a letter to the family describing how special she found the house when she made the offer. Junie gave Kristi a booklet from an award ceremony honoring Aggie and other women for their work in their communities.

Aggie would be proud to know how Kristi feels about homeownership. “Being a homeowner has provided an indescribable amount of stability,” said Kristi, “and I feel more committed to Pittsburgh.”

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